Thank you, Laura, for reminding us of Margaret Mitchell's sweeping epic, Gone With the Wind. Ms. Mitchell had little confidence that her story would ever be completed or even considered worthy of publication, and she kept her chapters stuffed in envelopes and stored in a closet. After ten years of writing and painstaking research, she won the Pulitzer Prize for the book and sold the movie rights for $50,000, the largest sum ever paid at that time. The movie set records for winning the most awards, which included Best Picture. Understandably, she was completely unprepared for the resulting fame and the disruption it caused in her homelife.
It is easy to see how an author could be overwhelmed to the point of paralyzing writer's block in the face of such unpredictable accomplishments, and perhaps that is the reason she never wrote another novel. But she has said that her book was about survival, about the people who had gumption and those who didn't. Would someone who wrote so eloquently about fearless tenacity become overwhelmed by success and notoriety to the point that they feared both failure and fame? It is quite possible, since our best writing often comes from wrestling with our own deep-seated fears. Story can empower us to drag our fears out of their dark caves into the sunlight that shrivels them down to a manageable size. Unlike her fearless Scarlett, perhaps Ms. Mitchell saw those yellow eyes gazing out from the depths and just backed away.
Gone With the Wind was the culmination of exposure to her Confederate relatives' constant rehashing of the Civil War at the turn of the century, and of living on Peachtree Street in historic Atlanta. Perhaps everything about her life contributed to one powerful novel. It may have required another lifetime - a different lifetime - to write another.
I wonder, if given the opportunity to write one incredibly authentic story with enduring characters whose names became household words, and of achieving success of this magnitude, would I be satisfied, or would I feel the need to write another book? How about you?