Some keys to understanding artistry

…the words “problem” and “solution” as commonly used, belong to the analytic approach to phenomena, and not to the creative. Though it has become a commonplace of platform rhetoric that we can only “solve our problems” by dealing with them “in a creative way”, those phrases betray, either that the speaker has repeated a popular cliche without bothering to think what it means, or that he is quite ignorant of the nature of creativeness.

-Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, Ch.11

And a lot more. Bear with me here:

Yet the common man, obsessed by the practice of a mathematical and scientific period, is nevertheless obscurely aware that that enigmatic figure, the creative artist, possesses some power of interpretation which he has not, some access to the hidden things behind that baffling curtain of phenomena which he cannot penetrate. Sometimes he merely resents this, as men do often resent an inexplicable and incommunicable superiority. Sometimes he dismisses it: “He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass.” But at other times-especially when the disharmonies of contemporary existence force themselves on his attention with an urgency that cannot be ignored, he will lay hold of the artist and demand to be let into his secret. “Here, you!” he will cry, “you have some trick, some pass-word, some magic formula that unlocks the puzzle of the universe. Apply it for us. Give us the solution to the problems of civilisation.”

This, though excusable, is scarcely fair, since the artist does not see life as a problem to be solved, but as a medium for creation. He is asked to settle the common man’s affairs for him; but he is well aware that creation settles nothing. The thing that is settled is finished and dead, and his concern is not with death but with life: “that ye may have life and have it more abundantly”. True, the artist can, out of his own experience, tell the common man a great deal about the fulfilment of man’s nature in living; but he can only produce the most unsatisfactory kind of reply if he is persistently asked the wrong question. And, as I have (perhaps somewhat heatedly) maintained in my preface, an incapacity for asking the right question has grown, in our time and country, to the proportions of an endemic disease.

Yes yes yes. This really gets to the heart of what art is really about (and what it’s not about). This also deep into the root of why people who only ask propositions and demand propositional answers don’t get it, especially when it comes to describing God. Here is why when fundamentalists produce art, it sucks so bad. Those who demand that a song be about something very specific and ONLY about that thing are the worst of audiences (and songwriters).

Yes, the unstable artist, the dreamer, is a threat to orthodoxy, but without him, you have no hope of achieving a robust orthodoxy. You hear that? None whatsoever.