On Being Creative in a Hurting World

Every morning, I haul myself out of bed, make breakfast, and then sit down at my computer to dedicate a portion of my day – 30 to 90 minutes – to writing. This is my Deep Work practice, and to me, it is sacred.

I do this no matter what circumstances arise in my life. I do this if thirty people are reading my writing or many thousands. I do this when the end product is horrible and I throw away the whole thing. I do this when I feel miserable, depressed, or alone; I do this when I feel like I’m on top of the world. I’m not the best writer – I still struggle with punctuation and grammar, and I have a more limited vocabulary than I would like to admit. And yet, here I am – in the same place I am nearly every morning, writing.

Why? That’s the question that inevitably comes up: why write at all? Why create anything at all? Especially when so few people read it, or it feels pointless, or the world is so large and dark, and I am so small? Why toil to create when there are a myriad of pleasures waiting outside my door: friends and movies and enough cat videos on youtube to last me centuries?

Because Focus is the Path to Fulfillment

Focus is the path to a fulfilling life. I now believe, more fully than ever, that pleasure comes from mastery, and that mastery comes from intense work and focus. In short, being a craftsman, and the Deep Work it requires, makes me a better, more fulfilled human being. It makes life richer.

No matter what is going on in life, returning to my craft, again and again, helps me stay above water. No matter how hard writing is sometimes, it keeps me from drowning in tedium and despair.

Because Creativity Heals the World

This may sound overly idealistic, and perhaps it is. But it is an article of faith for me that we create because the world desperately needs creativity; that stories, and songs, and pictures bring order out of chaos. That act of bringing order from chaos is an inherently refreshing and healing process for the human mind. We artists, we craftsmen bring delight and refreshment and sometimes even healing to the world we live in – we are doctors and nurses in a hurting world.

The piece of art in question may be very small, or very grand. In either case, the human mind thrives on creativity – needs it the same way we need food. I strive to provide the world with meaningful, beautiful stories.

Because It Helps Us Know Ourselves

We are infinitely complex creatures, barely known to even to ourselves. Stories help us understand who we are – who I am. Writing helps me think clearly, interpret the world more fully and, ultimately, to know myself. A person who doesn’t write – in a journal, in story, in nonfiction – has only a vague notion of who he or she is. C.S. Lewis is credited with saying that we read to know that we are not alone, and that is only half true. We also read – and write – to befriend the ultimate stranger: ourselves.

The final moral here is to keep writing, and keep being creative. Don’t stop. Keep doing it the way a weight lifter pumps iron or a runner puts on his shoes and runs every morning. It’s an athletic activity that requires diligence, patience, and routine. We are creating creatures, so don’t stop, even when it feels pointless, useless, or impossible.

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