If you are creating something...
...the first question you should always ask is, "Why?"
What is your primary motivating factor?
- Financial gain?
- Attention from peers?
- Social standing?
Or is there some other reason?
In my experience, these motivations may be present, but they should not be primary - that is, if those creations are going to be an authentic extension of your life. Because all of those motivations are extrinsic; there is a goal for their purpose in being created that exists outside of the actual content itself. Your focus, then, is not on the thing you are creating, but the outcome that creating this thing will bring you.
Occasionally, the creation will still be good and valuable and meaningful.
The risk, however, is that it won't.
That the audience who encounters what you have created will sense your agenda, your extrinsic motivation, and the inauthenticity that you used to bring forth your creation will create a stench that we will pick up on. Your creation, your audience, and your identity as a creator, as a result, becomes an object to get you something. While this perspective towards the crafts of art is common, it is sorrowfully less meaningful and, we could argue, the consumeristic, detached culture we now find ourselves in is the prevalent result of having extrinsic motivating factors as the reason we create.
so why should we create something?
Whatever content, craft, or art you are making should start from the same place love letters start from.
Which is why, in the words of radical theologian Peter Rollins, love letters always get to their destination, regardless if they are ever actually sent.
It appears that you write a love letter because you want to express your love to someone. You want them to know how you feel. You want to create a new shared reality between you and that person. So you take all of these thoughts and experiences and expressions and images like an array of beautiful colors built up in your soul and you throw them onto the palette of a letter. You take all of these pieces floating around inside of you and try to form them into something coherent.
And at that point, when you write the letter, you could say that you’ve already sent it.
That is it already at it's destination.
Because a love letter might appear to be addressed to someone else…but it is first and foremost for you.
When you create something, there may be another audience, but the actual intended audience, when the creation is authentic, is the creator. The act of creating is for the self, it ought not be extrinsic, but intrinsic. The receiver is simply a coincidental, and secondary, result.
Putting those words on a page, those notes in a song, those images in a piece of art is the release valve on this momentum and energy that has built up inside of you to the point that you might explode if you don't do something with it. You write a love letter because you need to create that message for you. Sharing it, then, is a side benefit.
And you will know it is like a love letter if you get done with your creative act and you can answer the question:
"If the only result from this was that I made it, would that be enough?"
If so, your primary motivating factor can be affirmed as intrinsic and we will all be invited to enter into your authenticity without being the object of your agenda.
We must create.
But our creating must be a reflection of our becoming.
Which means this very piece ought to be a direct manifestation of what is happening within me. If I wrote this with an extrinsic goal then this content is simply a medium to fulfill some agenda I have that you, in reading, are the object for. You become less meaningful - an object in my authorship, the content becomes less meaningful, and, I believe, progress & change becomes less likely.
Whether it is writing or art or music or food or conversations or relationships or business decisions - what if everything you brought forth were the colors of your soul finding a canvas? What if your creations were simply the expression of what had built up in your life that you just had to put into something?
In an age of spin, deceit, & manipulation, the world is craving authenticity. We want to know, "What is real?"
You, as a creator, have the opportunity to bring forth beautiful, meaningful works & acts of goodness that reflect this reality.
But it will only happen if you, first and foremost, are the primary audience.
That is the litmus test by which all acts of creation should be screened.
For me, this means that I want to be able to say that everything I write is like a love letter.
And if it is, as well as anything you create, we can be sure that it has already reached its destination.
Whatever you create, may this be the reason why.
May your act of creation be the only goal you seek out.
May you be the primary audience.
And may your creative process be truly authentic.