What's It For?


Recently, I was working on a painting in my studio.  In the span of a couple of hours, two people happened to stop by the house at different times. I chatted with them for a few minutes at the door to my studio.  Each of them glanced in and saw the painting I was working on.  Each of them asked the same question.

What’s it for?

At first, I was so confused I didn’t even understand what they were asking.  Once I gathered that they were asking about the purpose of my painting, I mumbled something along the lines of “Oh, it’s just for fun”.

That’s a terribly unsatisfactory answer.  

I was just so surprised by the question, especially the second time it came, fresh on the heels of the first one.  It seems like such an odd inquiry to me.  No one asks me what I’m eating for.  No one says, “Why’d you go to sleep last night?”.  These are activities no one asks me to justify.  They don't have a line on my to do list, and, yet, no one questions their use.  It would be odd to question their necessity, even.  So, why question the act of creation?

I understand that they might have been implying something like, “Are you going to hang that on your wall?”  That might have been what they thought they were asking.  But those were not the words they used.  And, really, I don’t think that was what was driving the question.  They really did mean what they asked. What’s it for?  

In our world so obsessed with productivity and practical application, this is the underlying question.  Why would we choose to Make?

Thinking back over those interactions, I wish I could have another chance at my response.  Instead, I’ll offer it here.  A fuller (though still partial) answer to the question.

What’s this act of Creating for, anyway?

I create to feel full.

I create for the wild happiness that comes.

I create for the solidity of being able to hold my accomplishment in my hands.

I create for the quiet hours that slip by without my notice.

I create to stand a student, at the feet of the world.

I create to experience utter awe.

I create to prove to myself that I can.

I create to ask a question and create the answer with my hands.

I create to not be rushed.  To be slowed to the pace of a stitch, a stroke.  

I create for that moment when I realize that I am in love with what I’ve made.

I create to know that I have been here.

What about you?  What's it all for, for you?  Why do you create?