Mixing Motivations for Creativity

Renee Hopkins over at Ideaflow took my email to her and my last post on the topic of creativity even further than I expected. Thanks for the positive feedback Renee.

Let it not be said that I am a theory snob or purest. I agree that most creative people work from a mixture of motivations - external and internal. The question I’m curious about is whether you can have a purely intrinsic or extrinsic motivation for creativity. To me it seems harder to suppose someone creating something from a purely external motivation. Perhaps this reflects more on my biases for creativity than the actual conditions of the real world. And it may be a barrier to my ever becoming an entreprenuer.

The more I think about the whole idea of dividing the measurement and motivation of creativity the more I return to the image of the circle or helix or spiral. What may be a motivation for one person could be a measurement for another. And the different perceptions we have of motivation and measurement could change over time, making today’s measurement a motivation tomorrow. Maybe this is what the idea of ‘selling-out’ is talking about: a fear that the measurement of success (making money) will become the motivation for further creativity.

Although the theory of creativity is interesting, the practical promotion of creativity is even more difficult. A lot of the interesting work I’ve read on motivating employees seems to say that building an internal motivation is more successful than rewarding people purely with money or accolades. Of course, that could merely be the position of a manager who is trying to save money on bonuses.

Either way searching for a pure motive to creativity runs against my pragmatic instincts. Too many loops and whorls are available; too many people, events and things interacting to set the stage for the creative moment. For me the diversity itself is a motivation.