Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Artists Between Mindset and Motivation



From my own experience dealing with many sorts of artists those last few years, I can deduct that a significant portion of them are afraid of failure as much as they are afraid of success. Like any kind of fear, this contains and limits them. It cripples them through their artistic journey.

The main problem with such people is that they worry too much about the outcome of their work. Be it commercialising their art, obsessing about what others will think of it or how they'll criticize it, or perhaps because they are seeking perfection, the worry does take away from their creativity. It dulls their shine, which naturally keeps them stuck in a quagmire of unaccomplishment, frustration, and lack of motivation.


But why is that so? And what's the difference between those artists and others who “make it”?



Artsy Arty Art



Art is rebellious in nature. Apart from creativity and imagination, it's a skill that needs guts and courage, which usually reflects on one's lifestyle. In truth, if you have the guts to call yourself an artist, then you are one. It's about how you perceive yourself. It’s as simple as that.

Many of the ones I have met seemed to lack the courage. They are too shy. It feels like they are afraid to shine; like they cannot believe they will make it. And this attitude shows on their behaviour and attitude. We attract what we have in mind; and if that is fear-based, then what we'll attract will be on the same frequency.  

Such people may not have enough self confidence — or freedom — needed to be artists who can excel in what they do. Without shine, artists lose an essential preliminary to become stars. If one really wants to be great, he or she should stop asking for permission.

When it comes to art, the differentiation between mindsets can sometimes be informally explained as the “starving artist” mindset and the “thriving artist” mindset (shown below). Or, as the featured infograph distinguishes; successful and unsuccessful.

The good news is, most of our limits are self-generated. Mindsets could be fixed, and the unsuccessful can become successful by changing some habits and perceptions.

On a parallel note, The Writing Process and the Creative Block is a more thorough exposé of mine about creativity in general and how to overcome creative blocks.




Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations



To be motivated is to be moved to do something. There is a certain inspiration that energizes the act. People have different amounts of motivation towards different things. They also have different kinds of it.

Let us see what psychology has to say about that.


According to the Self-Determination Theory, there is a distinction between two different types of motivations. This is not only in arts, but in every aspect of life.

One, is the Extrinsic Motivation, which occurs when we are motivated to perform a behaviour or engage in an activity in order to earn a reward or to avoid a punishment. It is not representative of one's self; for it arises from the outside.

The traditional emphasis on external rewards such as grades, report cards, and gold stars is indoctrinated into us since birth. Whether it's our parents, teachers, bosses, or religion, we are constantly reminded that external rewards can induce interest and participation in something the individual may have no initial interest in.

How many people work just for the paycheck or pray merely out of fear of going to hell? Even more so, how many kids clean their room or study or eat their vegetables so they don't get punished? Or those who compete in a sport or a contest to win an award or scholarship? A whole lot.



The second type is the Intrinsic Motivation. This, unlike the extrinsic, stems from within. It is self-determined. Intrinsic means it involves engaging in a behaviour because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than for some separable, external consequence like reward or pressure. Whether it involves work or play, intrinsic means motivated by inherent satisfactions such as fun, curiosity, and challenge. People with such motivation are more likely to be exposed to new ideas and to exercise new skills.

Reading a book, playing an instrument, writing poetry, playing a sport or working on some project could all be examples of activities inspired by intrinsic motivation. They are fulfilling on their own, without the need of a reward, and definitely without the fear of punishment. Without caring too much about the outcome, the individual here is inspired from within to perform or create without the limitation that originates from extrinsic motivation. In such case, he or she has the potential to become an unstoppable force characterized by an “indefatigable assiduity.”

The freedom that comes from the intrinsic mindset usually entails high degree of individuality and originality, as well as a healthy dose of self-worth. In art, that's a major benefit, which usually leads to standing out and possibly also to brilliance if enough hard work is achieved.


Numerous studies have actually shown that offering excessive external rewards for an already internally rewarding behaviour can lead to a reduction in intrinsic motivation, a phenomenon known as the Overjustification Effect.

The actual fact that a reward is expected when one performs an activity or does good can subconsciously undermine any existing intrinsic motivation that people might have. Because if I'm used to getting a reward for what I do, what would make me do it if I stop getting rewarded? Probably I won't do it, you see, and that will not be beneficial for me and/or for others. 


Much more on extrinsic/intrinsic motivation can be found in this contemporary psychology Paper by Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Dec of University of Rochester. 




Let It Shine



Whether for play or work, humans need motivation to achieve things. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are both important ways of driving behaviour, yet they differ in essence as we have seen. They also vary in achieving success.

In case of artists, some of them alternate between both mindsets. Others fully engage in their own art as a passion of the heart, not thinking of, or maybe not even desiring, external rewards. And some others, like the ones I mentioned, are stuck obsessing about results, rewards, and opinions.  

In reality, there is not one single way to be a successful artist. But one thing is for sure, being talented isn't enough to shine. Many people are talented and skilled, but this must be coupled with an inner will to create as well as with perseverance. I believe that's what makes the difference between those who make it and those who remain unknown; those who are passionate and in love with what they do and those who aren't so sure they are doing the right thing.

My advice to those contained artists is to let go of your fears and worries. Get creative without boundaries. As you work, try to forget the reward, it will come later. Try to forget the rules. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and wanting to develop oneself, actually you must shine to succeed in this field. But, overthinking the unknown can really hinder the creative process for an artist as it restricts them and creates mental blocks.

A true artist is here on Earth to create. Create because you want to; because it makes you feel good. Summon your muse and indulge in it. If you're doing it solely for the reward — money, fame, women or men — then maybe this fixation is standing between you and success.



In summation, we have to encourage all artists. For they are how we get a glimpse of others’ realities. For me personally, I see that manifestation stemming from the fire within is much more potent than if it is caused by some external stimulus or incentive. The intrinsic behaviour here emanates from one’s sense of self. I write because I must write; because it gives me pleasure, not because I get paid for it or not.

Then again, there is no one recipe to success. We're all different and different people have different priorities in life. Anyone, however, can rethink their choices and change their perceptions if they are seeking different results.


Always remember, we cannot create if we are afraid to fail. And fear is usually a liar. 



“We artists are indestructible; even in a prison, or in a concentration camp, I would be almighty in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell.”
― Pablo Picasso


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