SURVIVING BY HOPE
In this season of marking time until I can properly give my head to something solid, I have enjoyed trawling through other book lovers’ blog posts. In this journey of going down obscure alleyways and taking detours and, at times, being derailed altogether, I came across this quote from Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor.
“People without hope do not write novels. Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system. If the novelist is not sustained by a hope of money then he must be sustained by a hope of salvation, or he simply won’t survive the ordeal.”
I think I would have liked Flannery in the flesh - too late now, of course, and unlikely, given that she was something of a recluse, if I remember rightly. Every sentence in this quote says something profoundly challenging and thought-provoking, with layers of ironic and rueful truth.
Yes, it takes a long time to write a novel – at least, in my case – and given that I was well on the way to ‘old’ before I even started my writing journey, I intend to give my hair and teeth extra attention. Yes, I am irritated by people, including myself, who worry that fiction writing is somehow inferior to the factual; that the effort should be directed more usefully to writing devotionals or self-help volumes. And yes, the drilling for a character’s voice often releases an understanding that shocks me into deeper revelation of issues I hadn’t considered.
Having heard too many fellow writers speak of the small financial return for their labours, I am one who is sustained by the hope of salvation. I hope to write a novel that has the capacity to set in motion a chain of events where the unseen will impact the known in ways I couldn’t imagine. My hope is to fulfil what was written on the pages of my heart in my mother’s womb, maybe even before. I am sustained by the desire to hear the Everlasting Word say to me, “Well done! I read it and I am pleased!”