I’ve been reading Flannery, Brad Gooch’s biography of the writer Flannery O’Connor, with interest. O’Connor did not live a long life, dying of lupus at the age of 39, but had a full career. Her fiction is an acquired taste, and can be described as Southern Gothic with Christian themes imbued with a sense of the macabre. One fact stands out. Flannery O’Connor succeeded as a writer because she received constant support. Other writers liked her work, starting at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and continuing for the rest of her life. Her literary friends, agent, and associates could not wait to read her next novel or story, and they promoted her work with the passion of zealots preaching the gospel.
The popular notion is that artists toil away in solitude, years ahead of their time, until they are magically discovered, often after their deaths. For the most part (except in the case of rare artists like Franz Kafka), this is bullshit. Human beings need positive reinforcement. Writers are no different. They don’t work simply because they have some innate need to do so, but because they enjoy being read and discussed. They don’t work in a vacuum. They write because they have the need to communicate.
This is born out by experience. Artists and writers who do not receive feedback simply stop working. But, of course, this is as it should be. Like it or not, the process of natural selection is a fact of life. Either you have something to contribute to the mosaic of life or you don’t.
August 8, 2009 Comments Off on Flannery