good news for the creative genius who doesn’t need to eat

“How, specifically, does motivation affect creativity—both the generation and the editing of ideas? It matters where the drive comes from. All driven writers focus on their work. But people driven by intrinsic motivations such as curiosity and enjoyment have a relationship to the product of their work different from those moved by extrinsic motivations including praise, money, and a constantly varying world of punishments. Someone who is fascinated by language attends to details and to the overall texture of a writing project more than she will if she is writing simply to satisfy the public. While strong intrinsic motivation increases creativity, surprisingly, adding extrinsic motivations—even positive ones—can actually decrease creativity. If that is true, paying a writer may paradoxically make him writes less well. Reward may encourage the writer to stop work as soon as he or she has completed the minimal amount necessary for the reward, resulting in what the economist Herbert Simon calls satisficing. Extrinsic motivation may also have a negative effect on creativity by distracting the subject’s attention from the task to thoughts of reward or punishment.” —from The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain, by Alice W. Flaherty (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)


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