What drives artists to create? The story of Mary

This week I heard a story about a nutritionist named Mary who used to be an actress. She used to perform improv, sketch and stand up throughout New York City and was seen in Off-Broadway musicals. Now Mary has a regular life in Seattle working as a nutritionist.

In spite of her professional stability, Mary hasn’t stopped performing. She continues to create comedy pieces and continues to perform around Seattle. Her local performances are very low key, though. She’s certainly not making any money out of her presentations and certainly not looking for fame.

So why does Mary continue to perform?

It’s not any news that art is a necessity of the human species. Along with religion, art is the element that makes us, humans, different from all other animals. I see the artist as the one who is able to understand a given reality and express it in an abstract, non-literal way. They are the uneasy people, they are the rebels because they see the world through a different lens, the lens of artistic expression. They are solitary creatures because only the artist himself is the one who understands the translation that goes on in his mind when he transforms his reality into art.

The more artists produce art, the more they feel the need for it. They are never satisfied. Why? Why does Mary continue to perform? What drives an artist to create his/her artwork? Maybe because they want to drive social change… Maybe they want fame and money… Maybe they want to promote religious or political values… Maybe.

The reason I think artists have the drive to create is because they need to communicate with other individuals, to create connections. It’s the human species’ social instinct.

Because the translation – from reality to art – is always going on in an artistic mind and this is generally a solitary occurrence, artists need to make it social. They hope that someone who watches or appreciates their artwork to say, “I see what you are seeing; I see where you come from; I feel the same way.” The desire to create is individual, but the end is social.

Going back to Mary’s story, I believe there is no former artist. There may be former nutritionists, former architects, former lawyers, but the artist continues to be an artist until the day she dies. Mary will continue to perform because the translation continues to happen in her brain and she needs people to communicate it to.