Once upon a time, when I was in a moment of artistic crisis, a dear, talented, compassionate and necessary writer told me this: “We write to clear a path in the forest that others may follow and then step off of to create their own paths.”
Today, on her blog, she writes, “What troubles me about rejections is that perhaps the audience I imagine for this work is not right, or doesn’t exist. Maybe I’m the only one interested in the things I write about. And if I am my only reader, then I don’t really need to write it, do I?”
Last night, I was reminded of the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, and how it takes only one small voice saying “Look at that man’s dinky!” to show us all, immediately, that we are being lied to. We ARE being lied to. The artist is the person who knows.
You are not your only reader, Elena. You are not the only one interested in identity and fitting in and cruelty and family and isolation and food and inheritance and war and trauma and equality and racism and freedom and love and all the other things you write about. We live in a society in which we all agree that Monday morning is the time we get up and go to work, and that work and what we get paid for it is the measure of our self worth. That is only an agreement – and a silly one at that – and we can change it anytime we decide to agree on something else. But without artists, we will never see the nakedness of our arbitrary collective decisions and make a change.