The recent news that Harper Lee will be publishing a sequel to her 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel To Kill a Mockingbird has set the literary world a-twitter with gleeful anticipation and dire warnings. I’m fascinated that Lee waited 55 years to do this and is reported to be almost completely deaf and partially blind.
These circumstances leave us with many questions:
Why did she decide to publish Go Set a Watchman now?
What happened all those years ago that stopped her from writing anything else?
Was it perfectionism?
Fear of failure?
Not enough to say?
Not following her own advice to have real courage to begin anyway and see something through no matter what?
According to the National Endowment for the Arts description of how the book was created, when Harper Lee was writing To Kill a Mockingbird she became so frustrated at one point that she threw the manuscript through a window and into the snow. Apparently her agent made her retrieve it.
Who hasn’t felt like doing that at some point in their writing process? (Paul raises hand timidly, then goes out into the bitter cold in his writing slippers to fetch his current work in progress from the foot-and-a-half of snow outside his apartment balcony.)
To Kill a Mockingbird has never been out of print since it was published and has been placed on numerous “best of” literary lists. Perhaps Lee put everything she needed to say into that one book and then thought about it for 55 years and decided she had just a bit more to contribute. She also proves that you’re never too old for a comeback!
Here are some questions for the rest of us:
What do you do when you find yourself unable to finish a manuscript?
How many unfinished manuscripts do you have lying around and do you think you’ll ever get back to them?
What will it take to finish them?
These are all fascinating questions and I hope everyone reading this finds the answers they are looking for. I’d also absolutely love it if you shared some of those answers with us by leaving a comment in the comments section!
Stories are the Wildest Things – even 55 years later.