Excerpted from a letter to William Blackburn written July 23, 1949 from Valley Cottage, N.Y. Mr. Blackburn was a professor at Duke and an early mentor of William Styron’s.
For the first time, too, I’ve actually come to the conclusion that I want to write, not just be a “writer.” That, I suspect, is a good sign. Each day that goes by I find something else that I really want to say, while becoming gradually more and more secure in my own concept as to just how I want to say it. By that I mean that I’ve stopped taking the book-reviewers seriously, and the sorry little critics of the Partisan Review, people whom I once thought were soothsayers, but whom I now realize to be little more than spineless, gutless parasites. Not that I’ve deserted “artistic” principles; far from that, I’m terribly conscious of them. But my “talking” period is over; now I’m acting.
My work, I hope, will be neither pessimistic nor optimistic, nor will it, I hope, belong to any “school.” I’m interested in people and in their eternal dilemma, and if I can give to these artistic substance, I will be satisfied. If I have any “message” I don’t know what it is, unless it be that of kindness, which expressed just like that, may sound rather trite, but which I’m coming to believe in as a principle of considerable importance.
Now then, I hope you will forgive me for having been so tedious, but I thought that you might be interested in knowing that one who profited so in having you as a teacher and friend has been in the process of coming to grips with himself, and is now prepared to do things.
From the book Selected Letters of William Styron, edited by Rose Styron with R. Blakeslee Gilpin. Copyright © 2012 by Rose Styron. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House. All rights reserved.
Rose Styron will speak at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 4, on the grounds of the Chilmark Community Center.