If you make art, write fiction etc.. it can sometimes be easy to think that it “doesn’t matter”. That what you’re doing is ultimately insignificant in the grand scheme of things and is little more than a glorified hobby. It can be easy to think of regular art or writing practice as being some kind of meaningless chore. It can also, on a larger scale be easy to think that “the arts” or “the humanities” don’t matter to the world as much as many other things do.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Creativity does matter. However, it often matters even more to your audience. To give you an example, I’ll spend the next three paragraphs talking about an experience with being part of the audience for a creative work that I had shortly before writing this article.
The night before I wrote this article, I finally discovered a computer game that I should have discovered a long time ago. Although it might be quite a while until I review it properly, it’s a game from 2004 called “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines”.
When I loaded this game for the first time, just to test if it had installed properly and whether it would run on my old computer, I suddenly ended up playing it for three hours straight. I hadn’t planned to, but it almost seemed like it was a game that was made specifically for me…
Because it had been a while since I last had an experience like this, it really caught me by surprise. But, it’s a testament to the power of creativity. After all, thanks to a combination of words, images, music and programming code, I literally spent three hours glued to my computer screen in a genuine sense of hyper-enthusiastic amazement.
I suddenly had vivid nostalgic memories of the year of my life when I discovered one of my favourite novels (“Lost Souls“) and the gothic rock genre. My imagination was suddenly firing on all cylinders and I felt more creatively inspired than I had done recently. All because of some computer code that a few people had written over a decade ago.
Chances are, you’ve had an experience like this at some point in your life. Whether it was a novel that you ended up reading cover-to-cover in a single night, whether it was a song or a comic that literally brought you to tears (of joy or emotional catharsis) because it seemed to have been written about you, whether it was something that amazed you so much that it’s influenced everything you’ve created (or, even better, motivated you to start creating things), whether it was a story that totally changed your opinions about something etc… You’ve probably experienced something like this.
Yes, different things will evoke this kind of overwhelming emotional reaction in different people (so, it’s not something that artists, writers etc… can plan to do). But, the fact that it happens to anyone at all is proof of both the power and the importance of creative works.
Yes, creative works might just look like words on a page, drawings, paintings, programs, recorded sounds etc.. but they’re much more than that. They have the power to make us laugh, cry, cheer, scream, gasp, jump with joy, understand ourselves better, think about the world differently, feel like we’re somewhere else etc…
They can teach us things that formal education cannot, they can shape our imaginations in ways that life experience cannot, they can make us think, they can transport us to other places, they can teach us more about ourselves, they can even shape the direction that our lives take (I mean, you’d be hard-pressed to find a writer or an artist who didn’t become a writer or an artist because they’d seen something amazing and thought “I want to make things like that!”) etc..
So, yes, creative works matter. Yes, they might often be seen as “frivolous” by hardened cynics, but they can sometimes have just as much of an effect on all of our lives as politics, science, technology etc… can have. If they didn’t, why would they still exist? Why would they have existed for pretty much as long as humanity itself has?
Why would despots and dictators be so afraid of books, films etc.. that they feel the need to ban them? Why have phrases from 16th Century Shakespeare plays entered everyday language? Why were a lot of advancements in computer technology driven by people wanting games with better graphics? Why do a lot of modern technologies (eg: automatic doors, tablet computers, 3D printers etc..) bear a suspicious resemblance to imagined ‘futuristic’ technologies from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”?
I could go on for a long time, but creativity matters.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂