Because the World Needs Beauty

Thoughts on creative work and why it matters

Jul 16, 2023

Creativity Creative Process Art Artist Persistence
tree trunk engraved with red heart

Photo by Chandan Chaurasia

Create anyway. This seems to be a buzzword (or “buzzphrase” rather) at the moment, a phrase I’ve been hearing quite a bit in different creative circles. In fact, there is a book that just came out by that very name. The idea is as it sounds—no matter what is going on in your life, or in the world, go ahead and create beautiful things anyway, even if in the larger scheme of things, they’re not essential. Even if you don’t have the time, or the money, or the resources, even if there are issues beyond your control, even if the world is ending as we know it, create anyway. At least that’s my interpretation.

Ultimately, creative “products” can be argued to be unnecessary. Humanity would go on without them. A blog post won’t save a life… or will it? A piece of art can’t feed your hungry soul… or can it? I think it was Martin Luther who said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” As creatives, we all come to a point where we are faced with the question—what’s the point? This can haunt us relentlessly. Many an artist have stopped creating because they couldn’t find an answer.

I have had my fair share of occasions where I was challenged by this cruel inquiry.

Many times I caved, putting down the pen, not facing blank pages. But something always called me back. The way I see it, creating is pointless and point-full all at the same time. Yes, there’s no point, and yes, it absolutely matters. What differentiates when it’s one or the other is timing and circumstance. Being creative can be the lowest item on your priority list when your life is a mess and needs an overhaul or you’re in crisis, or it can be the very thing you need when nothing else heals you.

I tried to start this blog post last night. I sat for an hour and nothing came. Finally, I produced one measly sentence, but that has since been deleted. I called it a night and dejectedly put my laptop away, frustrated at the lack of productivity. And here I am, the next day, trying again. So many of us are out there, toiling away at our creative pursuits, probably alone, in our makeshift studios. Amidst the chaos of our lives and the colossal chaos happening around us. Trying to put into form pieces of us that want expression. Trying to build something that might be seen as valuable by the world. And for what? For whom? What’s the point?

As a Christian, I can say that I create because I feel God has called me to. I was designed in His image, which means I was designed to be creative. To bring into being what before did not exist. But that doesn’t make me immune from having days where I still feel a lack of purpose for my work, where I doubt its value. When I can’t connect the work to any impact its having, it leaves me disheartened.

But what about all the other categories outside of believers? Why do any of them create? After some reflection, this is where I’ve landed: Because the world needs beauty, in all its agonizingly exquisite forms. And we need to know our lives meant something. We need to know our pain, our tragedies, can be molded into tapestries of healing. We want to recognize ourselves in another’s experience and know we’re not alone. That is the point, and hopefully, that is sufficient.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

~Howard Thurman

If creating is where some of us get our joy, where we feel the most alive, that is where our time should be spent, regardless of how “necessary” or “productive” it is in the larger scheme of things.

We need joy-filled people—we need to become them and be surrounded by them. Because joy is contagious, it is lifegiving and curative. Proverbs 17:22 teaches us that “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Will we be joyful all the time? Of course not. But we can strive to get there even in the face of tragedy. We can create anyway.

Maybe you’re a creative still searching for an answer to “what’s the point?” I leave you with this nugget: let the questioning be part of your creative journey, let it infuse your art with even deeper meaning. Create your way through the questions and the discouragement, come back to the medium, to your canvas, and work it out there. Trust the process. Allow yourself to feel what you feel. And should you arrive at an answer that feels genuinely gratifying, would you please share it with the rest of us? You never know, it might save a life, or at the very least, make the chaos around us a little more tolerable.