“But I tell you, nothing is pointless, and nothing is meaningless if the artist will face it. And it’s his business to face it. He hasn’t got the right to sidestep it like that. Human life itself may be almost chaos, but the work of the artist – the only thing he’s good for – is to take these handfuls of confusion and disparate things, things that seem to be irreconcilable, and put them together in a frame to give them some kind of shape and meaning. Even if it’s only his view of meaning. That’s what he’s for – to give his view of life. Surely we understand very little of what is happening to us at any given moment. But by remembering, comparing, waiting to know the consequences we can sometimes see what an event really meant, what it was trying to teach us.”
Katherine Anne Porter, The Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 29
What a rich, pungent point of view: To me, Katherine is almost giving us a writer’s mission statement. She’s taking a stand, putting a stake in the ground and saying, “This is why I write,” and challenging us to embrace her way of thinking. Now we may agree or disagree with what she says here, but whichever path we choose, there’s much here to ponder:
Nothing is meaningless if we as writers find the courage to tackle it.
Our job is to confront chaos and confusion and make them yield to us.
By reconciling confusion and disparate things, we give them a shape.
By remembering, comparing, and reflecting we learn and grow.
Here’s an action step worth considering: We can adopt these ideas as touchstones or we can create a mission statement of our own – a statement of why we write – and keep it where we can see it every day to inspire us and embolden us to write dangerously. What would yours be? Something to ponder and put into play as we all write on!