Jan. 2nd, 2010

Justine Musk:
In his book on human motivation – titled, conveniently enough, DRIVE — Daniel Pink notes that “intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity.” (He goes on to explain that as soon as you’re paid for creative work, what started out as ‘play’ begins to feel like “work”, which takes away the sense of autonomy that we need and crave. This wipes out the third drive and puts us back in the second drive, where we act simply to seek short-term rewards and avoid short-term pain.)

“In the early 1960s, researchers surveyed students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago about their attitudes toward work and whether they were more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated….The less evidence of extrinsic motivation during art school, the more success in professional art both several years after graduation and nearly twenty years later.” Painters and sculptors who were intrinsically motivated, those for whom the joy of discovery and the challenge of creation were their own rewards, were able to weather the tough times….”Those artists who pursued their painting and sculpture more for the pleasure of the activity itself than for extrinsic rewards have produced art that has been socially recognized as superior,” the study said. “It is those who are least motivated to pursue extrinsic rewards who eventually receive them.”

I see the difference very clearly. 

It's easy to want to be an economist. Easier than it is to be a writer. Economists tend to have stable livelihoods (never mind the current mess) and tend to be seen as 'respectable and safe' (especially from the point of view of Asian family). 

And it comes easy to me. Not super easy. I still have to work for it -- and because I'm a masochist, this is a bonus rather than a negative. But I get it easily enough that a career in economics seems possible, even more than likely. 

Writing, on the other hand...is none of those things. 

It's not that it's not easy. It is, because I have no deadlines and have temporarily given up setting deadlines for myself (well, I do have a goal of sorts, but 206 words a day is less than a page, right?). I don't struggle with the discipline either -- though, again, no deadlines to procrastinate etc. But after five years, I better have learnt how to make myself write every day, or nearly every day. 

Having said all that, I don't need to write. It's possible, and not unlikely, that I would gain more by turning all the time I spend writing towards economics. I could read more, absorb more, and skim less. 

I've tried to quit before. Nadia and I have had this conversation lots of times. But I'm still writing. The truth is that I miss it when I don't write, and I have yet to find something else that I can 'zone' into as well as writing. 



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