Flannery O’Connor was one of the great originals. She could be honest, profound and outrageous all at once. So I value her opinion more than most people’s.
In Mystery and Manners, a book of her essays, she proposes, “If writing is your vocation, then, as a writer, you will seek the will of God first through the laws and limitations of what you are creating; your first concern will be the necessities that present themselves in the work.”
O’Connor explains, “If the writer’s attention is on producing a work of art, he is going to take great pains to control every excess, everything that does not contribute to this central meaning and design. He cannot indulge in sentimentality, in propagandizing, or in pornography and create a work of art, for all these things are excesses. They call attention to themselves and distract from the work as a whole.”
O’Connor contented that writers ought to push their talents to the outermost limit of the kind of talent they have.
Modern writers, she argues, “…are not content to stay within our limitations and make something that is simply a good in and by itself…. Yet what is good in itself glorifies God because it reflects God.”
We need to love our work for its own sake, to take it to the outer limits of our current talent and ability, but not beyond.
And we need to disallow the temptation to use it as a vehicle for preaching or propagandizing except insofar as the stories themselves call us to.
“The artist has his hands full and does his duty if he attends to his art,” O’Connor maintains. “He can safely leave evangelizing to the evangelists.”
She would have us Christians realize that Christian stories are not necessarily about Christians and their concerns but are simply fiction “…in which the truth as Christians know it has been used as a light to see the world by.”