toni morrison quotes

55 Toni Morrison Quotes on Writing, Success and Life

Who was Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, on February 18, 1931. Her father was a train conductor, and her mother was a maid. She changed her name to Toni in honor of the great Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston.

She was a noted American writer of African descent who has won numerous awards for her work. 

Her novel The Bluest Eye received the National Book Award in 1970. It was adapted into a movie in 1996 by Mira Nair.

Life History

She grew up in Lorain, Ohio, and studied at Howard University, where she graduated with a degree in English Literature. It was during this time that she began to explore her talent for writing and poetry.

She became interested in African-American history and made trips to archives for research purposes.

She then moved to New York, working as a teacher for six years before returning to school at Cornell University. She graduated with an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from Yale University in 1962 and published her first book of short stories entitled “The First Life” (1961).

After graduating from Yale, Morrison traveled to France, where she worked as an English teacher for five years before returning to New York City, where she began publishing novels.

Toni Morrison’s first novel, “The Bluest Eye,” appeared in 1970. It won the National Book Award and became one of the most influential novels of its generation. Other novels include “Song of Solomon” (1977), “Beloved” (1987), “Paradise” (1992), “Jazz” (1997), and “Love” (2003).

In addition to writing novels, Morrison also published poetry collections, including “Sula” (1974), “Tar Baby” (1981), and “The Black Unicorn” (1989).

Toni Morrison’s writing career spanned decades. In addition to being an author, she was also a professor of English at Princeton University, where she taught courses on African-American literature.

She also served as an editor at Random House Publishing Group’s division Norton Press (Norton Anthologies).

Toni Morrison passed on on August 5, 2019, in New York. She was 88 years old at the time of her passing.

Toni Morrison quotes on writing. 

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“I have always been afraid of the word success, for I think of success as a thing that you get and then get a little bit more of, and then it begins to stink.”

“What I am concerned with is not so much who adds to the sum of knowledge as who prevents it from decreasing.”

“The time we spend in this world is too short for us to be serious all the time. So we ought to make the most of our time, whether in the morning or evening, at noon or just before going to bed.”

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

“The writer’s job is to make the invisible visible. The writer’s job is to give the inarticulate voice a voice and to make the voiceless articulate.”

“I believe in a revisionary play where you try on different voices and see what happens when you put them together.”

“Sometimes what we call ‘progress’ means only that we are getting worse and worse at doing the things we were doing better than anyone else had ever done them before.”

“The writer’s job is not to escape life but to live it. He has no other choice.”

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

“There’s no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well-written, badly written, or badly translated.”

“The journey is more important than the destination.”

“Writing is a way of learning how to live in the world. It’s how we learn how to be people in relationship with others and with ourselves.”

“If you want to find out who someone is, read their books. If you want to know what they think about things, ask them about them; but if you want to know what kind of person they are at heart, look at what they write.”

“I believe life is a continuous process of becoming, and living is a process of creating.”

“The writer is someone who reads to know what he cannot write.”

“I’m not looking for an easy way out. I’m looking for the place that is going to be interesting.”

“To find yourself, think for yourself. Don’t wait for other people to do it for you.”

“A writer writes because he needs to write… and because he still hopes to be able to write someday.”

“Writing about the unexpurgated truth will always be more courageous than writing about the expurgated version.”

Toni Morrison quotes about success. 

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

“Creativity is the art of realizing possibilities.”

“The crucial thing about a writer’s life is honesty.”

“In writing, as in most other things, there is no substitute for hard work.”

“Writing is the only thing I know how to do really well.”

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

“You must be willing to give yourself up to your work and sacrifice everything else.”

“The most important thing to remember about writing is that it’s not a talent; you have to work at it. If you’re lucky enough to have a gift for writing, do everything in your power to develop it.”

“The most important thing about being a writer is knowing how to find what you’re looking for.”

“I think life would be better if we had fewer regrets and fewer wasted years, but then again, I’m pretty sure that if we had fewer regrets, there wouldn’t be any writers.”

“It seems like the most painful thing in the world is to lose somebody you love. But then again, real things are worse than dying: like wasting your time.”

“I’ve always thought that if you want to be a writer, you must be a reader. You can’t be content with what other people write because they’re not going to be your friend.”

“The line between success and failure is a very narrow one. It’s so fine that it is often invisible. The difference seems like one degree but is as wide as the universe. A person can look at the same situation, see success and failure side by side, and never know which is which because he doesn’t know what’s happening inside himself.”

“I think we’re all in a race toward something. We don’t know what it is or how long it’ll take us to get there, but we know that we must go somewhere to feel alive. And to not feel dead, I suppose we must travel faster than most people; otherwise, we’d get tired and bored with ourselves before reaching our goal.”

“Success is not a secret; it’s just the product of rigorous training, a good deal of hard work, and luck.”

“If you know what you’re doing, you don’t have to be afraid to do it. If you know what you’re doing, there’s no need to be embarrassed about asking for help from people who are more experienced than yourself.”

“No one wants to read a book about somebody who has no problems because they’ll be boring. But if you write about people who have problems and make them real, they can become heroic and interesting.”

“Writing is like dancing: the more grace notes you play in succession, the better it becomes.”

Toni Morrison quotes on life. 

“There’s nothing more powerful than a dreamer with a dream.”

“The first trouble with people is that they don’t know what to do with their lives. They have to be told. Their minds are like parachutes – they work best when they’re not opened up and stretched out.”

“If you want to tell the truth, the first thing is to pick a simple word that everyone can understand. The second thing is to be careful where you put it.”

“A woman’s age may not mean much, but her age can always be expressed in years, months, or days.”

“The only thing that is constant in life is change.”

“The world is not a place to discover yourself; it’s a place to be yourself.”

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

“It’s not the baby that changes everything. It’s the mother.”

“It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it.”

“I want to live in a world where people are free to choose their way of life, and no one has the power to decide for them.”

“There is no such thing as progress. There are always only changes.”

“The color line is not a straight line.”

“To me, as a writer, I think this poem is about how you are trying to deal with your own powerlessness against other people who have power over you.” 

“Success has your name on the side of a bus. Fame has your name on the front of a bus.”

“You can’t tell somebody else’s story until you’ve lived it yourself.”