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Why Create Art?

I saw My Name is Asher Lev at The Lyric Stage Company in Boston this past weekend. It’s adapted from the novel by Chaim Potok. It tells the story of Asher Lev, an observant Hasidic Jew who is caught between being true to his art and true to his faith (or, at least, what the leaders of his faith dictate).

At one point, Asher tries explaining that he needs more than painting; he needs to share his paintings with others. That’s the part his ultra-religious father has a big problem with — the fact that Asher needs to show others his (often disturbing) work. Asher says (and I’m paraphrasing) that he doesn’t simply paint for himself, that art is meant to be a two-way communication, and that he needs people to see and respond to his creations.

That scene spoke to me. See, I recently saw a blog post (I can’t remember where now) from a fellow writer lamenting that he/she doesn’t write to be read; he/she was perfectly satisfied with simply creating. Now, I’m sure there are plenty of artists out there who feel this way, but I’m not one of them. While I do find the process immensely satisfying, I can honestly say it’s not enough for me. I’m like Asher Lev in that respect. I’m not writing simply for myself. I want to be read. I need to be read. I have an overwhelming desire to share the stories inside of me with others.

Here’s the thing: I know not everyone will like my art, and that’s okay (as it was for Asher). Oh, but for those who do! When I launched this venture last fall, I remember coming home one night and logging onto my Facebook page where a woman named Mercedes posted a comment on my wall. I had no idea who she was — she wasn’t a Facebook friend or friend of a friend. She had somehow found my page, “liked” it, checked out my eBook descriptions, and decided to buy and read “Support Our Troops” on her Nook. She left a comment telling me the story sounded interesting and she couldn’t wait to read it.

A few days later, after she had read it, she left me another comment on my wall telling me how much she enjoyed the story and that she looked forward to more of my shorts. She has continued to post comments every time I release something, and her support means more to me than she’ll probably ever know.

Mercedes is the reason I write. It makes me so happy to share my stories with another human being who is touched in some way by my art.

How ’bout you, fellow artists. Why do you write (or paint or sculpt or compose or…)? Is the process satisfying enough? Or do you need to share it with others to feel complete? Share your thoughts in the comments.

By the way, if you’re in the Boston area, I highly recommend My Name is Asher Lev. It runs through 3/13. I’m posting the trailer below.

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