What do Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson, and Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses have in common?

Gregory Wolfe, publisher of Image and author of Beauty Will Save the World, explains in this, his commencement address to the 2012 graduates of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA in Creative Writing program.

I attended that ceremony in Santa Fe, NM. It was a moving, inspiring event.

Here’s an excerpt from Wolfe’s address

The Sunday New York Times Book Review published a short essay by Roger Rosenblatt on the subject of greatness in writing—a topic he admits makes us nervous and self-conscious. Yet he insists we all need great writing.

As you graduate and embark on your writing careers you might feel that greatness is not something you can reasonably aim for. Certainly this program has taught you to shun the sorts of writing Rosenblatt criticizes—writing that is merely brilliant, clever, or exquisite. Still, you may feel that you are too small, too unready for greatness.

Rosenblatt provides a helpful corrective by noting that greatness is not merely grandiosity, nor is it restricted to certain forms like tragedy or the epic. To make this point, he cites the children’s classic, Harold and the Purple Crayon.

In the end, greatness is the result of a willingness to cross borders, to put yourself and your reader at risk of both misunderstanding and epiphany, of division and reconciliation.

Read the whole thing here.