A perfectly valid question that uses art, I think, in it’s broadest sense and includes fiction. Or at least it does in my head.
The question was not asked of me (I saw it in the twitter stream), I’m not sure if anyone other than perhaps friends/family would be interested in my view and I think I may have partially addressed this in an earlier post. Still: it got me thinking. Why do I keep on writing and spending large amounts of time at this? Has my position shifted?
I thought of five reasons. Yes, it’s another list. Here goes:
1. Sanity – The glib answer I used to give was that writing was my way of taking my overactive thought processes and forcing them to consider something other than the day job. This was a nice, safe answer that didn’t carry with it any expectation of success and was, born out by my Myers Briggs profile, at least partially true. However, there are still occasions where the day job or specifically thinking about the day job can derail my creative efforts. And it provides no explanation for why I put my work “out there”.
2. Please myself – Very true. However, doing it just for yourself is a little to close to mental masturbation and again, more importantly, you’d never put the work out there for anyone to see. I get a kick out of it but that’s not the whole game.
3. It’s the way I’m wired – Also true. I have written stories since I could pick up a pen and often it’s the only way I make sense of the world around me. As a race we are, arguably, pre-programmed to acquire language and to spot patterns and to problem solve. Stories are, to a certain line of thinking, the by-product of evolutionary features such as imagination, communication and pattern recognition. Yet not everyone writes (although sometimes it feels like they do) and to reduce it all down to wiring feels too reductive. I don’t buy it.
4. God gives you a talent and you should use it – Sorry, no. This is just a variation on 3 with evolution substituted for God (or vice versa depending on your belief system) and it’s still reductive. Moreover, we’re in to a whole quagmire of how do you define talent and should you only do something if you’re immediately successful at it and I’m an atheist so let’s just move one.
5. Connection – Ah yes. There you are. There is nothing on this earth – in my humble opinion – like creating something that didn’t exist before and having another human being respond in surprise/delight/awe/shock/connection. To have taken something from your skull and transmitted it into someone else’s cranium. Each of us is encased in a fleshy prison of solitary confinement, bumping occasionally against each others’ cells, through art we can reach our fellow captives – we can even be touched by those artists who have long since made their escape. It’s telepathy, it’s magic, it’s fucking awesome.
And that’s why I do it.