Writing is often a solitary endeavor. Authors spend hours alone working words and ideas into something alive within their own minds. New writers, unused to such dedicated isolation, often seek inspiration for their creativity–new sources for intriguing characters and unique plots which will win the reader’s approval. They look to experienced writers with hope for help. The experienced author usually desires to be seen as a representative of their craft and a leader within their genre. Despite the loneliness of their career, they crave followers that share their sentiments and are not above accepting adulation.
If a writer wishes to be a pathfinder and out in front of the crowd, some of the literary crowd will not perceive them to be as appealing. Egos will be bruised and feuds will result. A number of well-known authors have the reputation of stepping on the toes (or worse) or other writers. Ernest Hemingway was regarded as a charismatic person by many in his day. He lived an exciting life, wrote exciting tales and fought with other writers, including a fist fight with the poet Wallace Stevens who was twenty years older than Hemingway.
F. Scott Fitzgerald became Hemingway’s friends, helped his career, and introduced him to an influential editor. Despite all of this, the younger Hemingway soon began mocking Fitzgerald. He claimed that Fitzgerald’s life was wasted talent, and that the consumption of alcohol which helped him write, was an overpowering poison for the older Fitzgerald. Evidently, this famous author’s flaw was helping Hemingway, who wanted the credit for making his own way in the writing world.
Later in Hemingway’s career he found he had switched places. Now he attempted to advise a younger William Faulkner in his career. However, Faulkner did not respond with the reverence Hemingway desired, and even mocked his use of an elementary level vocabulary. What crushed Hemingway the most was that Faulkner won the Nobel prize for literature years before he did first.
The more emotional the appeal of the leader in the writing community, the more influential that leader is likely to become. Also, the more likely that followers will act harshly against this author due to any perceived problems. One of the difficulties with a charismatic leader is they may make an appeal to fight against the common enemies as a way to rise to fame. This often creates an “us against them” culture with people who are not that much different.
I have found that contemporary Oklahoma writers support and encourage each other. Same with musicians. We all know we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Robert Frost, who won 4 Pulitzers but never got over the lack of a Nobel and became a bitter old poet, sent me, a kid in high school, a note of encouragement in reply to a fan letter. So there is a community of fellow travelers out there, typing and most often, applauding each other. People encouraged me; it’s my duty to now be an encourager.