The job of a writer is of course to write.
But further, I believe, a writer should point out and articulate two things.
- A writer should record what is plain to see, but had not been pointed out.
- A writer should point out what others do not see.
I also see this as a way of documenting
Here is me pointing out an ordinary cafe in an ordinary town.
And an ordinary dog.
If you look hard, you will find that nearly anything can be compelling.
It is the job of the writer to say, look at that. To point. To shine a light. But it isn’t that which is already bright and beckoning that needs our attention. We develop our sensitivity—to use John Berger’s phrase, our “ways of seeing”—in order to bear witness to what is. Our tender hopes and dreams, our joy, frailty, grief, fear, longing, desire—every human being is a landscape. The empathic imagination glimpses the woman working the cash register at a convenience store, the man coming out of the bathroom at the truck stop, the mother chasing her toddler up and down the aisle of the airplane, and knows what it sees. Look at that. This human catastrophe, this accumulation of ordinary blessings, of unbearable losses. And still, a ray of sunlight, a woman doing the wash, a carcass of beef. The life that holds us. The life we know.
-Dani Shapiro, Still Writing