I don’t think there’s a definitive answer to the question of what drives a person to create. I’m sure a hundred different artists would give as many different reasons as to why they wake up each morning with the desire to paint, write, sculpt, compose or create in whichever medium it is they have adopted. When I think about it, this compulsion to create is the strangest thing, demanding a detachment from reality so that the artist’s imagination can find an outlet and take over. Interestingly, when Lovecraft writes of the appeal of horror fiction in his essay ‘The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature’, he comes to a similar assertion:
“The appeal of the spectrally macabre is generally narrow because it demands from the reader a certain degree of imagination and capacity for detachment from every-day life.”
In this respect, it is a certain kind of “sensitive” person who is drawn to horror fiction, and I believe the same is broadly true of art, and artists. A person who can let go of the world around them and open their mind to its imaginative and speculative capacity is going to appreciate the creation of art much more than a person who cannot step back for a few minutes from the world. For this same reason they are also going to be more inclined towards creating art themselves. Lovecraft goes on to write that:
“Relatively few are free enough from the spell of the daily routine to respond to rappings from outside […] But the sensitive are always with us.”
We each have our own reasons for writing. Didion seems acutely self-aware of hers. But for some of us, it is this sensitivity that drives us to express ourselves, and so we create, whether to combat the world, or heal it, or to understand it, or to find our place in it, perhaps even just to explore it.
I’m often asked “why write horror?” It isn’t that I sit at my desk and set out to force a horror story. For me, the answer is the same to the question “why write?”
The world is a horrifying place, and writing is my way of trying to make sense of it. I might use horror tropes and weird imagery to complement my writing, but its essence is an examination of the daily horrors we are confronted with simply by living, and the effects this has on people trying to get by in life without any real knowledge as to why. I said in a previous blog post that “If nothing else, horror is about emotion; a genre brought to life by fear, terror, repression and the constant struggle for characters (and their writers) to overcome these things, or at least negotiate with them”. Writing is my way of negotiating with the world. Why do you write?