The Myth of Motivation

Sep 05, 2016

Motivation Creativity Creative Process
woman sitting on bench at art museum looking at painting

Photo by Pexels

I must confess, motivation and I have not been getting along lately. I am finding myself more often griping about her. She does not understand me, you see. And I have a feeling she has been duping us all along.

To quote Jamie Varon — “You don’t need more motivation or inspiration to create the life you want.” I agree. We can have plenty of both and it will still never be enough. There is this fancy illusion floating around that motivation is the key to doing creative work. It is the missing piece. As if motivation will pick up the brush for us and paint, or the pen and write. As if motivation is the springboard for all the fruit of our labor. I highly doubt that.

Motivation has been hyped up, overrated, and glorified far too long. It has been used countless times as an excuse to not create, “I’m just not feeling motivated today.” How many times have I myself said that? It occurred to me after numerous occasions of hearing myself say it, that perhaps motivation had nothing to do with the act of creation. After all, I venture to guess that many of the beautiful pieces of art we are drawn to were made in moments where the artist was not motivated. There would be a tragic lack of art in the world today if artists only created when feeling motivated. So what, then, keeps them going?

Motivation is defined as “the state or condition of being motivated or having a strong reason to act or accomplish something.” Oftentimes this reason is unknown to the artist. She just feels called to create from a very rooted place within her. This to me is not motivation — it’s a pursuit. A quest to find and share the message we are uniquely here to share. A reaching for the unreachable, expressing the inexpressible. Putting into form what once was a mere idea. We don’t need motivation for this; we simply need a heartbeat and a yearning.

Creativity has to go beyond motivation to be meaningful. Motivation does not drag me to my chair everyday to write anymore; discipline does. But discipline does not get me to press on the keys — desire does. The yearning to be used for a larger purpose; to have these words stir something in the reader.

It is a relief, actually, to be rid of the need to feel motivated. I no longer wait for it like Cinderella waiting on her prince. There are so many things we would do more of, or better, if we stopped waiting to feel motivated: exercise, create, teach, volunteer, cook, take a class, clean, organize our home, and even play. We need to deflate motivation’s importance and recognize when it’s simply an excuse not to follow through. It can only take us so far; we must have the discipline and longing to take us the rest of the way.

What are your thoughts on motivation?