I was listening to a Fresh Air interview with Joaquin Phoenix just now and Terry Gross was asking him about being a child actor and in his answer he mentioned that he and his siblings all, "had something to say". That got me thinking. Is having 'something to say' a prerequisite to making something? Is it a crucial component of making exceptional art? I can back up even further and ask if figuring out what you 'have to say' is the secret to a happy life.
Most of the people who know me or read this blog or listen to On Taking Pictures know that I often suffer from depression. Mood swings that within a week will make me feel like I'm a god capable of anything to a piece of dirt no capable of getting out of bed in the morning. Typically these swings follow the seeming whim of my creativity. When I've got ideas I'm up, when I don't I'm down. Maybe I'm looking at it far to granularly though. Maybe it's not about a particular idea at a particular moment, but rather defining what it is that I 'have to say' in general. To define the motto of the wellspring from which the ideas come. So that it's not just today, but rather a longer arch of my life. For me this is a creative question, but for others it could be making the world a better place in some specific way, or enjoying their favorite scotch, or achieving some other long-term goal.
What I think we're talking about when we say that someone has 'something to say' is that they have 'purpose'. I certainly have a general sense of my purpose, I can see it's general shape and color. I know what it is by defining it by what it is not, but that's a terrible way to go about it. Life is about what you stand for far not what you stand against. Building it always better than tearing down.
So my goal is to define my purpose. To define what it is that I 'have to say', because without it I'm just groping around in the dark hoping to bump into what I'm looking for and that's no way to go about anything of substance.