Make Art to Keep from Drowning

Stress gnaws at my soul. My to-do list for today looms over me and writing another post like this is only an obstacle in the way of getting everything done. Yet here I am, typing away. And the click-clack of the keyboard is somewhat soothing.

So why do we create art? What is the ultimate goal?

If we never published a single scrap of writing or doodled picture, would we still create? What if we never showed our art to a single soul? What then happens to the creative urge?

Emily Dickinson never published a single poem her whole life. She kept them to herself. 

Most of the time we are making art for the wrong reasons. To impress someone or to futility chase after money or accolades. But this attitude can kill the creative spark. 

When I took my first creative writing course in high school, the teacher brought in a guest writer, Vernor Vinge. I will always remember his words of advice. Someone asked him why he wrote. His response: Because I have to. 

Art is stress relief. Pure and simple. I like to think that the Neanderthals who first slapped pain up on the Lascaux Cave did it to express some inner urge. Maybe as an attempt to quiet their fears of the frightening world outside.

Austin Kleon nailed this concept when he said: “The World doesn’t need more great artists. It needs more decent human beings” (from Keep Going).

What makes you human is the creative urge. All of human creation from the wheel up to democracy came from the human mind.

Too high minded for you? How about a comic strip by Stephen Pastis. Reading this, I feel that Mr. Pastis zeros in on the reason what most art fails: it strives to capture either money or awards.

You’re not in competition with anyone. The art is yours. Make what you want. If it happens to garner a greater audience, that’s great. But don’t make that your end goal. 

Let’s end with the king of art-for-art’s-sake — the man who had stuffed so many poems in his closet, that the publisher simply emptied it out and created a book — I’m talking about Charles Bukowski.

I don’t write to sell books. 

I write to keep my psyche’s guts from drowning

in the dung-filled waters

of this so-called Existence.

Well spoken Charles. 

Think about it, why do you create art? I know that for me, it creates a bit of inner calm. Now that this article is complete, I can’t say that all the stress has vanished, but a little has leaked away. And that’s not too bad.

Create for you,


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