Creating in Flow

The world of creativity—with a twist of rationality

5 Keys to Unlock Your Creative Motivation

Boosting your motivation leads to better creative output.

Motivation is a much more complex process than just "wanting" to do something. When you're working on a creative project and the going gets tough, if you're not motivated enough, you'll quit. And it always gets tough, whether you're a novelist, artist, musician, or even a creative entrepreneur. In my own research with highly experienced writers, I found that motivators are often combined for best effect.

Here, then, are 5 ways to raise your motivation level:

 

1. Increase the challenge of your project.

Try something you've never done before. When I interviewed bestselling novelist Diana Gabaldon, she told me that she once gave herself the challenge of writing a "triple-nested flashback." For many of us, concocting an ordinary flashback is challenge enough, but those are a snap for her.

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2. Change your creative method for the stimulation of a fresh approach.

If you typically write with an outline, try not to. Or begin writing without an ending in mind. If you never write with a plan, see what happens if you plan ahead. Even if it doesn't work, you'll learn something. Here's Wells Tower, author of a volume of short stories, Everything Ravaged Everything Burned:

I can never coldly write a story; it doesn't work. I've tried it where I have an outline, and I'll think this is going to be so easy, but when I sit down of course it's not. You have to get into a state of autohypnosis and let the story be what it wants to be.

3. Create from a different point of view.

Do you always write in first-person? Do you never write in first-person point of view? Try the opposite. Or create something artistic from the point of view of the bicycle, or the car, or the dog or cat, or the new immigrant or the alien from outer space.

4. Look deeper to find your intrinsic motivation.

Here's how poet Ralph Angel put it:

As much as I hate to admit it, I've learned in recent years that writing, even more than some of the most important relationships in my life, is where I am most in touch with myself, and, worst case scenario, people I love die and my life goes on. But if anything took me away from the work, I would be separated somehow from myself.

5. Forget about the goal and find the fun.

This is the most crucial key to entering flow. Put all thought of audience aside for the time being and find something pleasurable about what you're trying to create. If it's not fun, figure out why not and make it more engaging for yourself. There's nothing trivial about fun, as I've found in my talks with great creative individuals. It's one of the many motivators that bring them back to the work they do, day in and day out.

Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and author. Her current focus is on the creative aspects of rationality and atheism.

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