Why we create

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When I awoke before the sunrise this morning I had an intense desire to draw or write something.

As I scrambled to get my morning chores done and prepare for work the feeling that I needed to stop and create became so powerful that I had to physically sit down and catch my breath. I grabbed my laptop and quickly began to write, the first draft of this article is what I created.

But the experience got me thinking: what drives anyone to create? What goes on in our bodies and minds when we begin to explore creative possibilities? What was the feeling that made me want – so deeply – to create something almost randomly?

For some people creating is an emotional response. When a lot of thoughts and stressors begin spinning around inside of your head, one of the best ways to relieve the compression is to create, to get words or shapes out of your head and into the real world.

This reasoning explains my sudden drive to create in the morning: I had so much going on in my head that I had to let some of it out in order to make room for other things. Think of it like trying to stuff a lot of notes into a notebook that’s already full, at some point you have to start using a different notebook.

Another reason people create is for mental calm. When you grab a paintbrush and let your hand make marks on a canvas without thinking much, it’s affects are similar to that of meditation on the mind. The same type of feeling you get when you suddenly “space out” in the shower, or while doing the dishes, or driving to work, or listening to really boring story.

The act of creating can easily allow your brain to subconsciously sort through everything it needs to while your more conscious reasoning watches ideas – those nearly indescribable, intangible neurochemical signals – transform into real shapes and colors or words or objects.

There are definitely more reasons for creating as well: boredom, trading to get a good grade, because your boss told you to, psychological exploration.

One other reason we create is for money. Believe it or not: there are artists out there in the world who only find pleasure in painting because it makes them money. Same for writers and dancers and teachers and other creative thinkers. Money is a big motivator for some people, whether or not that’s a good reason for creating is a topic for another day.

It’s important to know the reason you’re creating. If you ever feel that drive inside of you to sit down and just write, you’re better off taking the time to figure out why you have that drive before you even start. Often understanding why you’re creating will help you identify what to create.

So why do you create? What drives you every day?

And while we’re on the topic of why we do what we do, Merlin Mann posted an excellent video way back in 2010 that touches on the issue of getting stuck and procrastination being a result of temporarily forgetting who you are and what you should be paying attention to.