Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Urge to Create

Miss Snark's First Victim has a blog post up today about why we write. It's pretty good--she challenges writers to dig deeper, beyond the glib phrases many writers tend to toss around when the question is asked.

And I started out with an answer all ready. But I couldn't. Because all I could think about was this kid I met today.

The tragedy of life doesn't lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. --Benjamin Mays

So this kid I met. He had no goals in life at all. I am totally serious here. Today we were working on selecting topics for a paper. The students have to write 6-8 pages of a research paper on any topic they pick--any goal, dream, or favorite thing--and this kid could think of nothing.

Me: So, what do you like?
Kid: Nothing.
Me: What do you do for fun?
Kid: Play video games.
Me: Do you want to write about your favorite video game?
Kid: I don't have a favorite video game.
Me: Then why do you play?
Kid: Nothing else to do.
Me: What else do you like?
Kid: Nothing.

Repeat ad nauseum.

It wasn't that he didn't want to write the paper (or at least, it wasn't entirely that). It was that he could not write a paper on something he liked because there was nothing that he liked enough to do that on. Nothing. And there has never been a sadder moment for me as a teacher. No dreams. No goals. Nothing of joy in his life. He was an empty shell of a child.


After this, I read the post on Miss Snark's First Victim. My first instinct was to respond by saying this:
All humans have the urge to create, be it a physical object, a child, a thought or belief, or a story. In its essence, human motivation lies in creation, and writers choose to create through words.
But after working with this kid, I questioned the validity of this answer. A kid with no goals, no dreams, and no urge to create anything. It was an alien concept for me to experience. I have always had the urge to create, and that filters all I do in life. I have a very hard time just sitting there. Writing, cooking, sewing, calligraphy--I even consider reading to be a form of creation because of the thoughts I create as I read. Just because it's in my imagination doesn't mean it isn't a creation.

So it is perhaps facetious for me to claim that "all humans have the urge to create." Because that is clearly not the case.

I am very much interested in what you all think:
  1. Do you think that at least most humans have the urge to create?
  2. Is creation the source of your writing desire--and if not, what is?
  3. How would you inspire or reach out to a child with no goals in life?
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