October 23, 2009

The Urge to Create

I have a friend, Kim, who is an amazing artist.  She does graphic design, flash, painting, photography, sculpture, and so much more.  I am in awe of her talent and her hard work.  (Her profile is not yet on the web, or I would link so you could see her work.) We were talking yesterday about the creative process.  

She’s working on a series of five amazing paintings of closeups of everyday objects, and she was telling me about her successes and her frustrations.  I kept nodding, because everything she said also applied to writing: It’s never good enough. There’s never enough time.  Sometimes there are happy accidents.  This part here works but this part doesn’t. Other’s work is so interesting and inspiring. You can get so into your work that the time flies but you can also be so focused that the muscles in your shoulders tense so much it gives you a headache. The dread before starting a project.  The excitement of starting a new project that catches your imagination. Your ambitions are too big.  You get nervous about its reception with other writers/artists.  It’s always easier to get to the projects that other people ask you to do than to your own. There’s so many projects you would love to do. Finishing something makes you very happy.  Life interferes but contributes. I could go on and on. I guess I had always thought about the creative process being similar across media, I’d never thought about it being exactly the same. 

Which got me to thinking about something I’ve been cogitating on a long time.  Don’t you think that there is an urge to create just as deep as there is an urge to destroy?  There’s certainly a nesting urge, a urge to have a baby, but it’s broader and deeper than that.  The need to make something, to produce something, is not just a byproduct of needing things because we’re hungry, thirsty, or desirous.  Wanting to leave our mark on the world, sure. Sort of the opposite of the need to consume, a counterbalance. I don’t know what I’m saying exactly ~ only that it’s more fundamental than people think.  The arts are sometimes considered extraneous, but they are part of something that is profoundly human.  They are the outward expression of creativity and imagination, and without creativity and imagination, we wouldn’t have science or society or anything.  Science uses metaphor ~ though they might call them “laws” or something else ~ especially with new innovation (think Einstein).  I’m not merely justifying the arts; I’m saying that creativity has an evolutionary basis that got us where we are today. Creativity is a wanting to connect to the world, to other people. 

We have urges both to create and to destroy, but creativity takes longer and more effort.  To nurture a plant or a child, it takes lots of time and attention.  To create art, it takes energy and material and time.  To destroy something, sure it takes an outburst of energy, but it’s much easier and much faster.  And maybe both these urges stem from the same place.  What do they say?  A critic is a stifled writer?  A hater hates what he sees in himself.

I feel like I’m not articulating this very well.  And many people have probably said this before me, and much better.  Ah well.    

Go create something. I’m gonna.

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