Why create art?

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Recently I took a hiatus from an almost daily habit of spending an hour or so writing poetry or fiction. It wasn’t really intentional. Mistakenly, I saw the two weeks work shut down at the end of the year as an gleaming opportunity for writing; especially with my husband’s looming project preventing him from taking the same holidays. I could laze until nine in the morning; leisurely dig through items for winter cleaning in my annual ritual of dividing the necessary from the no longer needed. At noon I could call on friends who I had been ignoring, take the dog on extra long walks  photographing whatever caught my eye, and even have a leisurely conversation with my children during the break between semesters.

One of my tasks during this time was gathering new data on creativity, reviewing what I had collected for over a decade after completing my research on creative talent development.  I recalled the professors in the school of education as hailing the development of creativity among gifted students as our best chance to correct the ills of society. A fairly tall order to expect of students I had thought. How could we expect student to become so creative and that they could come up with the solutions to problems we had perpetuated?

But no matter how impossible the task, building creativity for the result of benefiting humankind is more palatable than the current reason for doing it. Companies wan innovative workers to make money for them. Creative has not become the key to growing the economy, and to keep company profits pouring in during uncertain times. [1] I find an increasing embrace of creative destruction, the idea that technological innovation that will disrupt economic structure from within in the attempt to find a new ways to make money. [2]  I am disquieted at creativity being used to promote unsustainable capitalistic expansion. Much more disturbed than I was as an idealistic art student in the seventies worried about being able to make a living with my ability.

However,  I figured that with a couple of weeks break from work, there would be plenty of time for expressing my own originality. But without a tight schedule that required I actually set aside the hour or two, I failed to do creative writing. After a week of this existence I started sensing a kind of bland, bloated feeling that was hard to shake. Somehow I missed the daily exercise of taking my ordinary prose and recreating it as I played with insights, images, and alliteration.

Really, I do not understand all the reasons that I have this insatiable drive to create works of art. It doesn’t seem to be for the fame or solving the latest crisis for humanity or amassing wealth. My daughter says all art in essentially unnecessary, or it would not be art. However, she is constantly sketching, painting, and writing. She is currently majoring in fine arts; hooked on creativity, too. Ultimately I realize that creating makes my life more bearable, and hopefully I add a bit of joy to others by sharing what I have made.

Art by K.N. Listman


[1] Florida, Richard, The Real Reason Creative Workers Are Good for the Economy, Sept. 13, 2013
[2] Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1994) [1942]. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. London: Routledge. pp. 82–83. ISBN 978-0-415-10762-4.
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