The Habit of Being

Flannery, Andalusia, Milledgeville, GA © Susana Raab

Flannery, Andalusia, Milledgeville, GA © Susana Raab

I’m really being inspired right now by the selected letters of Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being. Flannery, a writer of what some call Southern grotesque, was a devout Catholic whose faith seemed not shaken but reinforced by her diagnosis of Lupus, at a time when the disease was tenuously maintained by heavy steroids with big side-effects. She is so damned funny, and self-deprecating, but also wise. Here is something she wrote to a friend who was struggling in the wake of some negative criticism:

“No matter how just the criticism, any criticism at all which depresses you to the extent that you feel you cannot ever write anything is from the Devil and to subject yourself to it is for you an occasion of sin. In you, the talent is there and you are expected to use it. Whether the work itself is completely succesful, or whether you ever get any wordly success out of it, is a matter of no concern to you. It is like the Japanese swordsmen who are indifferent to getting slain in the duel. . . The human comes before the art. You do not write the best you can for the sake of art but for the sake of returning your talent increased . . . ”

And something which resonates with my attitude to some of my work:

“I am interested in making up a good case for distortion, as I coming to believe it’s the only way to make people see.”

Thank you Flannery O’Connor.


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