That question has been running through my head the past day or so. You can google “why we create art” and get responses in varying degrees of inanity and less than helpful lists. Fundamentally though, creating art is not Darwinistic and it does not pay. Yet it feels much more vital than a hobby, which is what the hierarchy of life would reduce it to.
People create for many reasons, and often when discussing it they say they enjoy the process or they want to express themselves. But I think expression implies two parties. We create for other people to read or see or hear. Even while I say I write for myself because I enjoy it, there’s more. I write with the purpose of communicating. Even in personal journal entries, I explain situations as if I didn’t know what happened in my own life. Maybe that’s just me. To some degree, if I can finish my novel satisfactorily and no one ever reads it I will be proud of my efforts. Yet I want people to read it and I wrote with the implicit goal that if a person read it, he/she would understand the story I am telling.
So yes, we create for ourselves. Yet somehow the expression isn’t complete if there is no one on the other side to see it or hear it or read it and recognize it’s existence. It becomes “like dead letters sent to him who live, alas, away.” If a tree falls in a forest with no one there to hear it, it doesn’t matter if it makes a sound.