Elaine Lindsay: In Asher Lev you suggested that if the Jew becomes an artist it is incumbent upon him to become a great artist, this being the only way to justify what he's done to everybody else's life. Is this applicable also to the writer?
Chaim Potok: I think that writers pay a terrible price for what they do; they pay it in loneliness, and very often they pay it in the harm that they do to other people by opening up images of reality that people would prefer not to see. I think the only justification for this kind of activity on the part of the writer is that he do it as honestly as he can, and that he try to do it better each time, with greater skill or for a greater purpose.
I don't want to make it sound as though life is all gloom and doom for an artist- there are great moments of joy, a kind of soaring that one rarely feels in normal life. But the artist feels that not very frequently- most of it is hard, gritty work. The only compensation for the hard work, for the pain that he sometimes causes people is the truth that indeed there are people who are grateful for the honest mirrors that they are shown of themselves. That makes the hard work of the artist, a person like Asher Lev, more than worthwhile- if he can create a really beautiful work of aesthetics that can at the same time be a truth.
~page 30 of Conversations with Chaim Potok of the Literary Conversations Series, edited by Daniel Walden