Tony-nominated Eclipsed playwright and The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira knows something about writing. While speaking at the Lilly Awards, which honored her Monday night, Gurira gave some key advice to young female writers. She remembered sitting at the inaugural Lilly Awards as a guest when fellow playwright Sarah Ruhl told her she had just read her play, Eclipsed. “She told me how she thought it was beautiful, powerful, and important,” Gurira said. “I remember being filled with so much hope, inspiration, and fuel to know that I was on the right track and doing the right thing even though the world may not tell you so all the time.”
Gurira saw her award as an opportunity to speak to “those girls coming behind me or those girls who may not know where they’re going to get the next job from or how they’re going to get around that male in front of them who keeps stopping them [from] getting to their destiny.” Here’s Gurira’s advice for fellow young female artists and writers:
The first thing, young female artist: Have a vision. Identify your outreach. The lack that is unjustifiable in what narratives are yet to be told. Embrace that burden on your heart to get that story to be told. That burden is a blessing. Then get to work. No excuses.
No one in the world can do what you can do. Tell the story the way you only can tell it, so don’t deprive the world of your uniqueness.
This is a big one: Go where you are loved. How many times did I have to learn that? And how often do I meet young other writers who speak about how this avenue and this artistic director and this agent didn’t see something through, didn’t respond the way they hoped and desired.
Don’t let disappointment stop you. Go where you are loved, where your voice is embraced and your vision is respected, it may not be where you expect it or where you had hoped, but it may just be where you grow and are nurtured as an artist. It may just be where your breakthrough comes to pass. Don’t let disappointment take hold. It is really asinine to creativity, it’s poison to your creativity, rather. Stick to your vision and trust the right words will emerge if you keep doing your thing and putting yourself out there.
And lastly, be a finisher. Get it done. All the way. Embrace the right collaborators and get. It. Done. It’s not for you, it’s for all those other young female writers who will be less than inspired by your product. It’s for all the women you will employ. It’s for those whose light will shine as a result of the excellency you pursued when you put those words on the page. And it’s for the legacy you assisted built that annihilates the concept that women’s concepts are weak, rare or unprofitable. So, to the young women writers and creators in this room, I seek out to you the same validation Sarah [Ruhl] gave me that day and I so look forward to continuing to celebrate you.