Enter The Artist
One day I was sitting bored and restless in my high school English class when Marge Casey, our earnest and frequently disappointed teacher, began reciting a soliloquy from Macbeth. I believe she was trying to make a point about what she perceived as our stubborn indifference to books like Return of the Native and Red Badge of Courage. So she summoned Shakespeare to club us with his holy authority. I was vaguely familiar with the piece. I knew the Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow part, and I’d certainly heard Out, out brief candle. If I’d ever heard the end, however, I’d never paid attention until that afternoon.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player Who struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
A writer will sometimes be asked what other writers influenced him. I have never been able to answer that question until recently when I recalled that day in English class. Something lit up in me that afternoon that has burned ever since. In many ways everything I write in this space, and everything I will ever write, is influenced and inspired by that one soliloquy.
Here was a writer rendering not what could be seen but what could not be seen, rendering it as though it was as real as the chair I was sitting in. I still cannot imagine something I would rather offer the world. Moreover, Shakespeare showed me not just how to do it, but encapsulated exactly what I would forever be writing in response to, those two terrible words: signifying nothing.
That life has a meaning is a question I will be answering until I am done living. That meaning will never be seen, will never be measured or tasted or heard. Enter the artist, who must hold in his imagination what the hand cannot. You hold it long enough to share and then you lose it, having become momentarily distracted as you watch what you made travel out into the world you cannot understand.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.