Or paint well? Or compose well? I recently discovered one possible reason, as expressed by one of the exceptions to the rule: C. S. Lewis.
“Joy”, as defined by Lewis in Surprised By Joy, is an intense experience of longing. This yearning, he came to understand, could not be satisfied by any earthly experience. It seemed to point to something which, as an atheist, he did not yet know. This “joy” is what drives artists to create art; indeed, art itself has the capacity to create “joy” as we contemplate it.
But listen to the way Lewis concludes the book:
To tell you the truth, the subject [i.e. “joy”] has lost nearly all interest for me since I became a Christian. I cannot, indeed, complain, like Wordsworth, that the visionary gleam has passed away. I believe (if the thing were at all worth recording) that the visionary stab, the old bitter-sweet, has come to me as often and as sharply since my conversion as at any time of my life whatever.
But I now know that the experience, considered as a state of my own mind, had never had the kind of importance I once gave it. It was valuable only as a pointer to something other and outer. While that other was in doubt, the pointer naturally loomed large in my thoughts.
When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold.
“We would be at Jerusalem.”
(C. S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy, p237-238; Image: Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures)