I must have been asked dozens of times what I think is my responsability as a writer. The first responsability of all writers is to write. And if our job is also our joy, that is our great fortune. This brings to mind Robert Frost’s poem “The Pasture”:
I am going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
And wait to watch the water clear, I may)
I shan’t be gone long – you come too.
Writing clears away the leaves and debris from the spring. If we don’t clean it away from our souls, we are in trouble. The other responsability is to the work itself. A book comes from the writer, just as a child comes from its mother. Both have a life of their own. They are not our possession, but they are our responsability. The artist Edward Hopper said of his painting: “The man’s the work. Something doesn’t come from nothing.”
So it is with our craft.
We maintain the integrity of life and work by the choice of subject matter. It should come out of our deepest selves – the sounds from our own particular hearts. In a way, the writer belongs to her readers, even her most critical ones. I feel I have the responsability to come humbly to the empty page, to be ready to be surprised by the truth.
I have a favourite Chinese proverb that all writers should heed. “Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come.” I think I hear him now.