Flannery O'Connor

I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do…

I am so discouraged about my work…

Mediocrity is a hard word to apply to oneself; yet I see myself so equal with it that it is impossible not to throw it at myself . . .

I have nothing to be proud of yet myself. I am stupid, quite as stupid as the people I ridicule.

There may be no artist living or dead who has not at one point nursed these thoughts. These particular words are the inmost thoughts of one Flannery O’Connor. You may have heard of her. She is my favorite American writer – contemplative, painfully observant of human nature, sharply witty, and like Walker Percy (another favorite), a wholly Southern Christian intellectual. It should not surprise me that a confessing Catholic would struggle with her vocation, and yet it does! The power of her published works blinds me to the possibility that this literary giant must have also experienced moments of doubt and frailty.

O’Connor penned these words in A Prayer Journal, published posthumously from her notes. Even though I’m a fan of her fiction, this publication has only recently come to my attention. I’ve ordered a copy, and I look forward to peeking into her mind. In her words is a universal truth: art, like life, like communion with God, is a struggle, a striving, a falling and rising. Perhaps this excerpt says it better than I can:

Maybe I’m mediocre. I’d rather be less. I’d rather be nothing. An imbecile. Yet this is wrong. Mediocrity, if that is my scourge, is something I’ll have to submit to…

I think to accept it would be to accept Despair. There must be some way for the naturally mediocre to escape it. The way must be Grace.

Flannery O’Connor’s IMDb page

Further reading:
The Sound Before the Song”
by Jamie Quatro, Oxford American
Book review in The New York Times