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!
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.