Is This a Question?

Sometimes artists have to ask the question “why should I create?” And a lot of times, there is no reason. Then the question becomes “Why can’t I create?” or “Why do I hate what I’m creating?” There is some neurotic impulse to create that is not always legitimate or praiseworthy; by way of example, I rushed to open a new document to begin writing this down as it came to mind, partially because I thought it was worth writing, and partially because I was desperate to have something to say. Why am I desperate to have something to say? Because I’ve been struggling to find meaning in my thoughts, and I’m afraid of inextricable confusion and lack of inspiration. That’s to say nothing of the depression so many artists and thinkers experience on a regular basis, of which I’m very familiar. Actually, it’s to say quite a bit about that. Now I’m going to say quite a bit about other things.

Confusion comes from the build-up of ideas and mental notes that get no outlet. If any artists are like me, they know there’s a constant sifting process going on mentally that’s looking for information about important topics. Because it’s not a logical process (step 1, step 2, step 3), it becomes overwhelming, although if you’ve been doing it your whole life, your brain is probably fairly fit to perform these random tasks. Expressing thoughts is an athletic discipline that needs regular devotion, and too often I don’t submit myself to the process. How does a person write? I don’t mean how do you use a pen, I mean how does a person synthesize thought patterns into language that other people can interface with? My thoughts are so often incomplete sentences, or even worse, not even words or recognizable language, but only emotions, triggered memories and “gut instincts”. Then when I read back my writing to myself (subtling moving my lips, which I’m ashamed of, as it’s for some reason a stereotype about low intelligence; of course I’m also embarrassed that I’m ashamed about it) I often end up just enjoying the sensual feeling of the words in my mouth and don’t actually re-address the meaning behind the words. I do this when I read other people’s writing too. But even now, as I’m writing, sometimes quickly, sometimes haltingly, I feel that sense of release and catharsis that is so familiar, but that my own neurosis (or Satan) so often keeps me from welcoming in. Now as I read back over what I’ve written, I’m impressed by my own style, and now feel guilt about that. And it’s caused me to write the previous sentence in a less pleasing style.

So why do artists have these brains (the ones I just made example of with my own brain)? Do they really have different brains, or are these just typical brains? Does anyone really have any brains? Does anyone really have any balls? The answer to both is unequivocally yes (thankfully), but on a more serious note, how do we know that artists do think differently? I don’t have the discipline to become a psychologist or a sociologist, so how can I begin to understand what (if anything) makes me and my artistic peers different? Note that difference does not equate to any qualitative judgement. I’m merely trying to understand myself, and shed light on the process of trying to understand myself for the sake of other myself’s (not my other selves, but other people who consider themselves a “myself”).

Most of the data I reference in trying to figure this stuff out is experiential. I just know from all types of relationships I’ve had that there are people who are obviously very similar to me, and there are people who are not very similar to me, and there are people who seem like a completely different species than me (I mean this in the most endearing way possible). What complicates things is that I’ve known people involved in the arts, or who practice an artform, who seem nothing like myself. This presupposes that I’m an “artistic” type of person, which the MBTI Personality Type Indicator would attest to, but I need to be careful of not jumping to conclusions based on a test. (I’m talking about myself a lot here, but the idea is for you to project yourself unto what I’m writing, which I’m sure you’re doing). So, at any rate, I’ve known musicians who don’t seem very musical at all. What to make of them in this quest of understanding brains? What sorts of brains do they have? It seems a different sort of brains than my brains. Why do we both make music? Who’s better? Why am I so self-centered as to ask this question? Why does it matter who’s better? Is quality an illusion? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, than quality is definitely an illusion, but since quality is obviously not an illusion, do any beholders really have eyes? Sometimes the answer would seem to be “no”.

But since most of us have eyes (and those who do not tend to see better anyway), what do we do with them? They’re connected to our brains after all. It seems as if people of different personalities do behold beauty in a similar way; even if I don’t have similar artistic taste as my not-very-artistic musician friend, we both have an attraction to music, and it would seem that beauty has something to do with our attraction. This person is able to beautifully play things the “right” way. He understands how to create out of what’s there. My constant struggle is to create out of what’s not there; to create spontaneously. Is there a clue here? Some brains seem designed for connecting random things into something coherent, and these people tend to create the trends (or to pour their draughts into the rivers of trend) that become the “what’s there” that other people re-create. In simpler terms, there are creators and there are replicators, and again, I am not speaking at all of quality here; there are no logical (ha!) grounds for differentiating qualitatively between different personality types or skill sets. Sadly though, it seems like everyone wants to be a creator and not a replicator, and the internet age has given everyone the tools to do this. Is this good, or is everyone just chasing dreams that aren’t theirs? How do I know it’s my dream? How could I be so audacious as to assume it is? At least I’m not alone in thinking so…

I originally asked the question “why should I create?” I asked it because I really wanted to know, and I was feeling discouraged about something I was trying to create. Isn’t this the classic moment creators always experience? How often does it happen? All the time. Are there any clues here about the answer? Yes. I should create because I’m a questioner. I didn’t even mean to use all of the question marks that I did in this essay. It seems that I’ve worked out the answer to my question by becoming conscious of how many questions I constantly ask. Maybe this is who creators are. Why should I create? Because I asked the question.