I like to peruse old copies of The Writer's Chronicle and have recently been enjoying an essay by Brett Lott about Flannery O'Connor from the October/November 2010 issue. Here's an excerpt that really made me think about writing (and made me want to read O'Connor's work!) I have not yet read anything she has written but now have her complete works reserved at the library. Says Lott: "She believed in the art over the artist, for she knew intimately that the artist was a human, rife with his own failures and prejudices, and his days fleeting at best. She understood that the story would be what remained - not on the shelf of the library somewhere, and not as a citation in a book of critical theory, but as a residual element of the should of the story's maker. And so the story, in service to its truest creator, had better be damn good, and had better speak loud and clear about what matters."
He then adds an excerpt from her work "The Nature and Aim of Fiction"
"One of the most common and saddest spectacles is that of a person of really fine sensibility and acute psychological perception trying to write fiction by using these sensibilities alone. This type of writer will put down one intensely emotional or keenly perceptive sentence after the other, and the result will be complete dullness. The fact is that the materials of the fiction writer are the humblest. Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and its you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It's not a grand enough job for you."
Lott goes on to say,
"The humble recognition that we are all made of dust is the primary element of humility; we can't approach mystery at an esoteric and abstract remove from the smelly rabble of which we are all a part. And if there is any approach to be made to the eternal, to the mystery, to that which in a work of art 'must not be able to be completely explained in words' it has to become through a confrontation with the concrete reality of human kind.
It has to come through confrontation with ourselves."