Creative work—be it writing, painting, photography, performing, designing—is a means to something else.
I’ve been hovering around this thought a lot lately—that even though I’m a writer, it’s not really about the writing.
I do it for something else. Something greater. Something outside myself.
Or do I?
Maybe I write solely for me. Maybe me thinking I write for others is a clever way of evading my complete and utter narcissism.
Maybe it’s a mix of both.
I have always believed the creative life consists of two root notes: communion and community.
Communion describes an intimate connection between two people. A sharing. Mutual participation. Vulnerability. Trust. And unspoken communication.
Communion can exist between a writer and reader. A writer and God. A writer and place. Or even between the writer and herself.
Communion is the practice of a personal, human connection.
Community describes a relationship among a group. Shared interests. Threads. Customs. Traditions. Culture. History.
Artists need a community. For belonging. For experimentation. For competition. For respite.
Community is the practice of a universal, human connection.
So circling back to where I started, if my work as a writer is not about the writing, what’s it about? Why write? Why create?
Is it for some greater purpose? Is it for myself? Or is it for both?
Did you know the root word in both “communion” and “community” is the word “common”?
Funny that we tend to see our commonalities as a bad thing. We’re supposed to be unique and different. Individuals. Stand-outs—which is where “outstanding” comes from.
And art—“real art”—is judged on its originality. Even the word “creativity” has become synonymous with what’s new and different.
But that’s not what we really want, is it?
We don’t really want to be creative, in the modern sense. We don’t really do creative work for its own sake.
Something else is at work in us.
Creative work—be it writing, painting, photography, performing, designing—is a means to something greater: human connection.
We do what we do to connect with ourselves, others, our surroundings and (for some of us) God.
From May 2012 to July 2013, I wrote a weekly series of intimate essays for writers and artists seeking a deeper connection with their identity and place as modern creatives. I called this series Root Notes. This was an essay in that series. It was originally published on April 7, 2013.