Does Your Writing Tidy Up Reality?

One of the hardest skills learned for writing anything is to be honest. Finding that thread of vulnerability, authenticity, and truth-telling. Where we say what we mean, and mean what we say.

Flannery O’Connor in her book on writing, Mystery and Manners, explains the job of a novelist:

“The novelist is required to open his eyes on the world around him and look. If what he sees is not highly edifying, he is still required to look. Then he is required to reproduce, with words, what he sees. Now this is the first point at which the novelist who is a Catholic may feel some friction between what he is supposed to do as a novelist and what he is supposed to do as a Catholic, for what he sees at all times is fallen man perverted by false philosophies. Is he to reproduce this? Or is he to change what he sees and make it, instead of what it is, what in the light of faith he thinks it ought to be? Is he, as Baron von Hugel has said, supposed to “tidy up reality?” (177).

Whether you have faith in the Divine, or not, the work of the writer is always the same… never tidy up reality. Truth-telling is the primary vocation of the writer.