Why bother creating?
Kanye West posted something interesting about the nature of creativity today. I’m going to make a copy of it here, because I find the presentation also interesting. Here’s his post, for reference.
I’m not the biggest Kanye fan. I go back and forth. But I think that this is an interesting, personal look into the creative process of someone whose work is at least widely known and recognized.
Goood quotes from unlikely sources
I agree with charlesju on Hacker News, I think this line is my favorite:
I never feel like I’m not the underdog. I never felt completely comfortable. I’m tormented by the need to create.
I’ve basically felt that same itch for large parts of my life. Sometimes, I haven’t paid it much attention, but that need has been the source of some of the more interesting things I’ve done. I talked a little bit about this in my post last week about the gift of creation. That post was more about recognizing the surface signs of the creative itch than examining the underlying motivations that drive the creative process.
“Why” is the harder question, of course. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. One of the fundamental tenets of capitalism is the incentivisation of behaviors. Some jobs are paid more simply because we want to encourage people to do them. Garbage collectors, for instance, get paid pretty well for the relative level of difficulty their duties entail. Even though it’s an unskilled job, nobody wants to do it, so they make well over minimum wage. Some of the socialist literature I’ve been examining lately basically posits that monetary incentives aren’t the only kind of incentives, and that even if the monetary incentives no longer existed, people would still do “undesirable” things. I’m not sure that I buy it on a wide scale, but when I look at myself, this is absolutely true. Even when I didn’t pay my rent via code, I still coded. I wasn’t as fulfilled as a person, but I managed to exist, and still create. That’s what caused that thought to tumble around in my brain for the last month or two… why bother creating?
Haters gonna hate
It’s really amazing that people still continue to create at all, when there’s so much criticism out there. Al3x, a Twitter engineer, is shutting down his blog. For now. Part of his reason is related; he’s writing for himself, and he feels the responses of others take away more than they contribute:
Lately, I’ve found the cathartic returns from blog-format writing to be diminishing. The ideas I’m trying to express never really get put to rest in my head when I write, now. Instead, they spark whole conversations that I never intended to start in the first place, conversations that leech precious time and energy while contributing precious little back. Negative responses I can slough off, but the sense that I’m not really crystalizing my unset thoughts by writing here is what bothers me.
I sort of felt the same way when my blog got linked to by Reddit a few weeks back; there was a lot of bullshit. And it’s frustrating. My initial motivations are similar to Al3x’s; I find that writing helps me to fill out my thoughts. I’ve been trying to make writing a habit, and it’s been hard to find both the time and topics that are fleshed out enough for me to finish them off by writing about them. But pushing myself is part of the challenge, and I expect to get better at it as time goes on. Hopefully, this means that in the future, I’ll be able to synthesize more fully thought-through opinions at a faster rate than before. I’ll also have examined my own thoughts, opinions, and convictions more closely, and made sure that they’re in line with what I truly believe is right. What I’m trying to get at is this: creation is always incredibly personal. An author puts some of himself into every work that he makes. So criticism against a work is extremely easy to consider as an attack against the author itself. So it’s difficult to create and put stuff out there, only to get it criticized by everyone is frustrating.
And the verdict is…
… I’m still not sure. This is a topic I’ll continue to write about, as my feelings become more clear. There has to be something more fundamental involved here. I haven’t found it yet, I just know that I can’t sit around and watch TV. I can’t work a ‘normal’ job and toil away on some reporting system that helps just a few people do their jobs a little bit better. I’ve gotta do something more important than that, change the world, keep pushing.
And I’ll keep telling you about it. So that I can figure it out for myself.