2 min read

"Art is a support for life"

There's a passage from Stephen King's On Writing about how art is a support for life. This rhymed with some other things I've been thinking about, and I couldn't find it online.

On pages 100 to 101 of my recent-edition print copy:

The last thing I want to tell you in this part is about my desk. For years I dreamed of having the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room—no more child's desk in a trailer laundry-closet, no more cramped kneehole in a rented house. In 1981 I got the one I wanted and placed it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study (it's a converted stable loft at the rear of the house). For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind, like a ship's captain in charge of a voyage to nowhere.

A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been, picking out the pieces and a nice Turkish rug with my wife's help. In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza. They usually left a boxful of crusts behind when they moved on, but I didn't care. They came, they seemed to enjoy being with me, and I know I enjoyed being with them. I got another desk—it's handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave. [... N]ow I'm going to tell you as much as I can about the job. As promised, it won't take long.

It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.

The message is clear: Don't let writing come before family. Or generalized, lowercase-a art before "the things that matter."

I wonder in what sense it is that "art is a support-system for life." It seems plausible, but how would it work?

This dual review of The Name of the Wind vs. The Children of Hurin by Adam Roberts gives one answer: Art keeps alive important "modes of engagement" that make us human. One might lose access to these modes if not for art. For example, "imaginative play." That's what it means to say that "art is a support for life."

It's a pretty good answer.

There ought to be more to answer here, though, and maybe there is.