On Harper Lee and Author Friends

Not even a year after the publication of a new manuscript, Go Set a Watchman, American author Harper Lee has passed away at the age of 89. Lee is perhaps remembered most lovingly for that grade-school book report staple To Kill a Mockingbird.

I want to take this opportunity not to mourn, because authors have the unique ability to live on in their works, but to focus on a moment in Lee’s early life and writing: her friendship with Truman Capote.

The New York Times ran an article last summer that goes into the particulars of their childhoods (they were neighbors), inspiration for each others’ work, and eventual drifting apart. It’s an interesting article, and one worth reading.

But Harper Lee and Truman Capote’s young friendship and collaborations illustrate something that should be very important to writers, regardless of their genre or style. I’m talking about friendship and the collaborative spirit.

No one understands the pressures and self-frustrations of writing like other writers. Others can imagine, but they can’t give the same encouragement or inspiration as the people in your writing group, your workshop, or whoever you exchange work with. The feedback is important, of course, but so is the commiseration.

That might be an off-beat takeaway from this sad day, when we have lost a great author, but I think it’s important to remember and embrace.

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