This past week, we lost one of the great literary giants, Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. She was 89 years old. As I was researching her life, I found this one fascinating quote. She said, “I never expected any sort of success with ‘Mockingbird’ … I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement.”
That quote speaks volumes to the life of an independent author. We’re not really looking for that ‘golden ring’ but rather, hoping that someone out there likes your story and gives you the encouragement to write more. This will be an endearing part of her legacy as a writer.
That’s something I found out about Harper Lee that I never knew before. I knew the writer but never knew some of her keen insights to writing. Reading them now, I can see how someone like her could inspire writers to pursue their craft.
She said, “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career, that before developing his talent, he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” That is so true, especially when you get that first bad review or next to nothing in sales. This is the wisdom from a woman who wrote two books in a career that spanned more than 56 years. It is a testament to her uncanny brilliance.
I also found it quite ironic to learn she was a huge fan of Bloom County cartoons by Berkley Breathed. After her passing, Berkley Breathed revealed his occasional correspondence with Harper Lee. It was sheer delight to find out that this legendary author loved Opus as much as I did. His tribute to her this past weekend was one of the best tributes I’ve seen to her this week.
“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself … It’s a self exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent,” Harper Lee said once, and I agree with it whole heartedly. Even as I write today, I see it as a way of putting my heart, my soul, into every word.
Many people prefer to quote her directly from her books, and that’s okay, but to me, that’s only one side of a writer. You want to look at what they write as well as what they say to get the whole picture of the writer.
I want to leave you with one more inspiring quote from Harper Lee. It speaks not only to the writer in us, but the reader as well. She said, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”