What’s The Point (of Art)?

I was going to write about something else, but the news of Sinéad O’Connor’s passing hit me a bit hard, and made me consider, not for the first time, the reasons why humans are compelled to create and consume art.

I believe that anybody driven to create, creates because of that inner drive. What use the creation is put to is a different kettle of fish all together.

Sinéad created because she was driven. Her talent existed and she chose to use it to speak out, for better or worse. She made enemies with her art, and devotees. She couldn’t help herself and she couldn’t stop. Her art and her belief system were intertwined, and it’s easy to only see her political statements and think that her art existed to support her beliefs.

If you’re a person with a creative drive, the creation is its own point. Sublimating it only backfires. I’ve known artists who couldn’t sleep or had terrible nightmares if they missed several days of painting. I know writers who are the same. My own world is sadder and grayer and, yes, slightly more meaningless when I don’t get to have my creative outlet.

But of course, there is another point to the art—the meaning we try to give it outside of ourselves for the sake of justifying its existence. As writers, do we want to entertain? Or drive home a political point? Do we want to show a way of being or take a stand? Now, mind you, my personal belief is that whatever the meaning you give your art is beside the point. The art needs to be created. How you dress it up for consumption depends on your background and personality.

There are novels that make me want to be a better person after I read them. Others make me thankful for the life I have. Still others shine a light on experiences I can never have, and I’m happy to have lived in those fictional skins for a few days or weeks. But that is not why those books exist.

In a word absolutely teeming with wonderful books, beautiful photography, deeply affecting artwork, music, films, comics, it might seem sometimes that throwing even more art into the mix is superfluous. Maybe you’re reading this and you’ve already wondered if AI will write better, faster, more interesting books than you.

What I want to say is, IT DOESN’T MATTER. Human beings are creative animals by design. Without creativity, we wouldn’t have achieved all that we have as a species (yes, for better or worse). In other words, creation itself is the point. Not what we say with it. If you’re driven to write, write. Not because you want to be a bestselling author or make millions, or even make a modest living. Not because you want to win prestigious prizes. Not because you want to make a statement. Not even because you have a deadline.

But because writing keeps the gremlins away.

Because you HAVE to.

Let me know your thoughts!

Emilya Naymark

Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.

When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.


  1. Emilya, after I finished a novel last year, I told my wife I needed a break from writing, maybe a couple of months, maybe a year. Three days later when I started writing another novel, I learned that a group of my friends had bet on how long it would take me to get back to writing. Five days was the longest time someone guessed. I CAN’T NOT WRITE.

  2. I have a lot of commitments to ill family right now, and sitting in multiple doctor’s offices, my fingers itch to be typing. I always have a book along but lately my tiny Moleskine notebook, used to take notes on meds, tests, appts, etc, now had, starting at the back, notes, ideas, names, etc., for a standalone I’d like to work on. When I can’t put my brain there for some part of the week, I feel sad and frustrated. It’s like a withdrawal ~

  3. Emilya, you hit a nerve- the creative nerve, that I believe lies within us all. Some people have it buried deep and haven’t discovered how to manifest their creativity. Gardening, cooking, sea glass collecting, knitting, can all be art forms. For me, writing is like a creative it h that must be scratched.

  4. I agree. I get antsy when anything gets in the way of my writing. Walking into my office and sitting down to write is the best part of the day. Doesn’t mean the actual writing isn’t torturous though.😉

  5. Agree completely. There are so many distractions in this world but I never feel more alive than when I am writing.

  6. I like the quote (wish I could remember who said it): “You’re not a writer because you write; you write because you’re a writer.” That’s true. Writers have to write. Knitters have to knit. Painters have to paint. Cooks have to cook. Creativity comes in so many forms. As one interested in antiques and antiquities, I love seeing how women (and men) n the past added their own creative twist to necessary, everyday items–like quilts and clothing and wooden furniture. Each had a practical use, but that wasn’t enough. They wanted to add beauty. Thoughtful post.

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