Why Create?

Sometimes I get stuck. Not so much on my story, but on the idea of this life I’ve made as a writer. I’ll ask myself why I continue, should I stop, how would life be without this need I have to write. Why do people become writers anyway? For me, it was something that evolved naturally. When I realized I enjoyed it, I continued the practice.

Then, real life entered the picture. I grew up, got married, had kids. And, with a little help from the world at large, I began to question my need to write. Or more specifically what exactly I thought I would get from writing. People who don’t write, people who don’t paint or play guitar or take arty black and white photographs–those people tend to think that the act of writing or any creative endeavour is suspicious at best and narcissistic at worst. 

If you can’t get paid or get famous, why do it?

This is the point where so many creative people, myself included, get lost. I was lost in that mess for a long time. I felt to be published was to be validated, that payment for creative work is the only valid reason for engaging in it. Payment in some form: recognition, money, fame. What if, I have thought on many a dark night of the soul, I never publish a novel and I die and everyone who knew me says “What a shame. She failed.” 

It took me a hellish long time to come around to a couple of ideas that have brought me peace with my creative urges. One, I can’t control what other people say or think about me, so why worry about it. Two, there is something in the act of writing itself that I love. The process, not the result. 

Mark Epstein says “Creative acts evoke states of being in which self-consciousness is temporarily relinquished.” While we are writing or painting or playing piano, we are in a blessed state. And that’s really why I write. I like the way I feel when I’m doing it.


  1. I watched Morning Glory the other day. This young woman wanted to be a producer on the Today show (if memory serves) all her life. Her mother told her that at 14 it was cute, at 18 it was inspirational, but at her current age it was now embarrassing. And when she admits this in a job interview the employer reiterates the same sentiment.

    I don’t know, there seems to be something profoundly silly about having dreams (whatever they are). You can’t justify having them on paper until you’ve realised them. And then everyone else changes their tune. As Tori Amos put it, “Most people don’t show up for essence.”


  2. This post explains so many things – I have always been uncomfortable in losing myself in my writing; I worry about putting so much energy into something that may never pan out; and I worry about finishing what I start. However, this may be the year that that changes, not because I’ve seen the light but because I’ve tried everything else. Who knows what will happen next?


  3. Cindy, you’re speaking my truth again. Though I’ve been writing professionally since the early 1980s, I wrestle with all these issues you mention … still. You’d think I would get over it, and myself. The narcissism is a worry; writing a regular “first person” column raises this nagging doubt now that I’ve started a new one again. Though I always remind myself (as I remind my personal essay students) that “the personal is universal,” sometimes I wonder if I am a selfish nutcase who’s ranting or rambling on for no good reason. Is it self-aggrandizement? Or am I contributing something worthwhile, something that truly helps others? I think we all have these doubts and worries….


  4. John, I have Morning Glory in my netflix queue! As for justifying our writing to ourselves, maybe we are each our own worst critics, because Sharon and Cindy I have read and enjoyed both your work & it never occurred to me to think “what is she doing?” Never crossed my mind. And John I love the art you post.


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