I'm currently reading The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain, by the neurologist, Alice W. Flaherty (Houghton Mifflin, 2004). In Chapter 6, "Why We Write: The Limbic System," Flaherty discusses several possible reasons for writing and gives a good bit of attention to "self-expression."
If I were given the question, "Is self-expression the reason we write, or are creative?" I would probably check all the boxes - Yes, No, and Maybe.
I've worked and taught in three arts areas - singing, performance, and writing - and I've been a founder of, or a consultant to, several start-up businesses. Self-expression has never been the instigator of any of my projects. Problem-solving, however, was often the prod to creativity.
Here, for example, is how I spent the 1st part of my morning: I received an email from a woman several states away who has been asked to record a CD for a company that has a successful niche market in related items. She never intended to sing professionally when she studied voice with me years ago, she only wanted to sing well enough to join her church choir. She hasn't a clue how to go about making a CD.
As I was going through my files for the names of a couple of recording studios in her state, she called. By the time our phone conversation ended, I had given her the name of an excellent recording studio near me in North Carolina, and we've made tentative plans for her to come here for coaching and recording. She had been thinking about moving farther south anyway, and had talked to a realtor about putting her house on the market in about 4 weeks. The Carolinas had been on her mind recently and, as we talked, she remembered that she had a contact who wanted to start a new venture in South Carolina that would solve some of the problems with her current employment.
All these plans will, of course, require a lot of phone calls and internet searches before we get to the creation of the end product. It's even possible that the CD will never get made. But the impetus to begin the process was not a need or drive for self-expression. She had never thought of recording her voice until someone heard her sing and suggested the project.
It was the problem, "How do I make a CD?" that led one woman to creatively think about completely changing her life.
To be continued.