Become King (or Queen) of Your Own Life: 7 Inspirational Lessons from Maurice Sendak

“Please don’t go. We’ll eat you up we love you so!” exclaimed fans of beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak when he passed recently. Maurice Sendak was the author and illustrator of favorites such as Where the Wild Things Are, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life, and In The Night Kitchen. He had a brutally honest, creative way of telling stories for children, but his stories and advice can certainly resonate with adults as well.

Whether you’re suffering from writer’s block, up for a new promotion, or just trying to stay motivated throughout the week, take this advice from Maurice Sendak in order to unleash and harness your inner wild thing and get what you want out of life.

Speak your mind,

“I said anything I wanted because I don’t believe in children. I don’t believe in childhood. I don’t believe that there’s a demarcation. ‘Oh you mustn’t tell them that. You mustn’t tell them that.’ You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it’s true. If it’s true you tell them.”

use your imagination,

“I have been doodling with ink and watercolor on paper all my life. It’s my way of stirring up my imagination to see what I find hidden in my head. I call the results dream pictures, fantasy sketches, and even brain-sharpening exercises.”

take risks,

“Herman Melville said that artists have to take a dive and either you hit your head on a rock and you split your skull and you die … or that blow to the head is so inspiring that you come back and do the best work that you ever did. BUT you have to take the dive and you do not know what the results will be.”

remain a kid at heart,

“Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do.”

appreciate the things money can’t buy,

“There must be more to life than having everything.”

do what you love…

“Kids don’t know about best sellers. They go for what they enjoy. They aren’t star chasers and they don’t suck up. It’s why I like them.”

…and forget the rest.

“I’m writing a poem right now about a nose. I’ve always wanted to write a poem about a nose. But it’s a ludicrous subject. That’s why, when I was younger, I was afraid of [writing] something that didn’t make a lot of sense. But now I’m not. I have nothing to worry about. It doesn’t matter.”

No matter what wild things are facing you, become the king of your own life and “let the wild rumpus start!” Even though the workplace requires cooperation and teamwork, never be afraid to stand up for yourself and do what makes you happy.

If you haven’t already, check out these interviews with Stephen Colbert here and here for more brilliant Sendak moments.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite Maurice Sendak quote? What was your favorite Maurice Sendak book? Share in the comment section below!

Photo courtesy of tatiana.nyanko.

Jenna Markowski

Jenna has a much easier time writing about the media and pop culture than she does writing about herself. She enjoys the simple things in life, like puns and typography. She is an avid fan of pop-punk, Halo 3, Spider-Man and origami, with a slight Taco Bell obsession. Her spirit animal is either a bulldog or a panda bear. You can also connect with Jenna on Google+.


  1. Jana Quinn

    I love me some Maurice Sendak. I especially love his thoughts on children/childhood. He can appreciate their awe and purity at experiencing the world for the first time without feeling the need to shelter them from every tiny thing.

    Let the wild rumpus begin!

    • Jenna Markowski

      He’s the best ever. I really like his view on children/childhood as well. It’d be helpful for everyone in the world if more parents and educators thought like Maurice did!


  2. Cybernetic SAM

    BRAVO!!!!! Love that man! These are awesome quotes you chose! I especially love when Maurice is REAL with children and how they perceive the world around them. I love that he doesn’t believe there is a separate world, that the best thing you can do is make them realize they have the ability to embrace ALL aspects of life and to not lose any sense of creativity (adults alike). If anything when you have writers block just read one of his stories, and surely it will inspire in some way! GREAT POST!!!!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks, Sam!! 🙂 He did have a pretty good understanding of how children perceive the world, and that’s part of what makes his books remarkable and timeless. The lessons and messages will always be true for children, and some are things adults could use a reminder of once in a while, too! I agree, a Maurice Sendak book could certainly kick writer’s block to the curb.

  3. Mandy Kilinskis

    I’d realize how blunt and matter-of-fact Maurice Sendak was until I read a couple articles when he passed away. Now there’s a man that doesn’t pull punches, and I respect him more for it.

    I love the quote of him quoting Herman Melville. Taking risks is necessary if you want to reap rewards. Also double-amusing if Melville thought that Moby Dick was his best work. Blech.

    • Jenna Markowski

      He’s the most badass children’s author there is, simply because he does not care what anyone else thinks of his work. As he said himself, “I don’t write books for children. I write, and someone says it’s for children.” It definitely makes him more respectable because he doesn’t try to paint the world as something it’s not.

      I love that quote, too! 🙂

  4. Kelsey

    I love his quote about doing what you love. I think this is an awesome post, I feel like he says everything I would want to say if I could find the right way to say it.. 🙂

    On a side note: I was Max from Where the Wild Things Are for Halloween last year! …Speaking of remaining a kid at heart. Hahaha

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks for commenting, Kelsey! I love that quote, too!

      That’s so awesome! I’ve always wanted to dress up like Max. Maybe this year I will! 🙂

  5. Rachel

    These are all really inspiring quotations! The quote about remaining a kid at heart speaks strongly to me, since I know exactly what he means about no longer remembering how to move between fantasy and reality. I mean, of course as adults we can still be creative and delve into fantasy worlds, but (in my experience, anyway) there’s a filter now that’s not there when you’re a kid and making up ridiculous stories with your toys.

    Also, I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t really read Maurice Sendak as a child … I think the illustrations of the monsters in “Where the Wild Things Are” frightened me too much, haha. 🙂 He was a marvelous man, though, as this article so wonderfully demonstrates. Thanks for sharing, Jenna!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Definitely. I know I started to notice that shift when my younger sister was starting to play with Barbies, something that I used to love doing, but then as I got older I wouldn’t be able to get into it because it all felt silly! You’ve got to stay young at heart in order to get real creative juices flowing.

      I think a lot of people/kids were afraid of the wild things. In fact, I probably like the book now as an adult than I did as a kid. His work is great, and I love listening to interviews with him because he has a lot of sage advice about life to offer. Thanks, Rachel!

  6. James Hoffman

    RIP Maurice
    A truly unique writer. Great article Jenna!

    • Jenna Markowski

      Thanks for commenting, James!
      I agree — his talents will be missed.

  7. Jen

    I wasn’t much of a reader as a kid (however I enjoy it now), so I think I may have missed out on some of Maurice Sendak’s stories. Honestly I didn’t even know who he was until this post, but I think he is someone I would have liked. His interview with Steven Colbert is awesome. My favorite quote is “Children do live in fantasy and reality; they move back and forth very easily in a way we no longer remember how to do.” I’ve never thought of that before, but it so true. Thank you Jenna, for introducing me to this beloved author, I can see why he was so inspiring to so many.

  8. Eric

    “Appreciate the things money can’t buy.”

    Great line, and something a lot more people could afford to stop and take the time to do, especially in this economy we’re in. Hopefully more people have. Sad that we’ve lost a great writer, but glad we had him for the time we did.

    If you’ve ever been a child…chances are, you’ve read “Where the Wild Things Are.” Countless times.

  9. Jeff Porretto

    These are some great quotes. I like to think I hit on 6/7 of these. But I am definitely not a big risk taker. I won’t hesitate to change something that isn’t working for me, but if it IS working, I’m hesitant to change it to try to make it better. I subscribe to the “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” theory more often. Maybe THAT’S why I’m not famous yet!!

  10. Jill Tooley

    Oh, Maurice Sendak. You’re so awesome. I love his quotes regarding children because he addressed them as adults and didn’t resort to baby talk. Basically, he’s telling them the same things he’d tell a peer, which makes his insights that much more credible. You want to make something of yourself? You want to use your imagination? Do it. Who’s going to stop you?!?

    Great post, Jenna. I re-read “Where the Wild Things Are” last year and it took me back to my childhood… Those were the days! 🙂

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