Creativity doesn’t need motivation


Do you need motivation to be creative, or is it enough to simply be attentive?

It’s an interesting question to ask, particularly because the belief that you have to pursue creativity in order to achieve it has been propelled for so very long.

As Pablo Picasso once famously quipped: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

Worth clarification from Picasso is whether you need to be working towards creativity for insights to occur. My gut tells me you do not. To be creative is to be attentive, not busying yourself, fiddling away in desperate pursuit of new insights.

We know creativity occurs naturally without intent anyway.

There is ample anecdotal evidence of creativity sparking in individuals who weren’t looking for unique and valuable ideas in the first place. Eureka moments exist in a moment of break anyway, not while we’re intently focused on the problem(s) at hand. Motivation is not required criteria for creativity.

Everyday people often stumble on unique ideas, typically without realizing just how creative the ideas are.

For example, we realize how easy it is to simplify something in our life. We stumble on a solution to a weekend problem. We find a way. And we do it all without every stopping to think “That wasn’t just a good idea, it was a creative one.” The reason we may not stop to reflect on the creative value of every-day ideas is because we weren’t looking for them in the first place. We weren’t motivated to find a novel solution, but we were attentive enough to notice when they appeared. Creative insights occur regardless of motivation.

To be creative doesn’t mean we must be working on a creative task or problem, instead we simply need to be working (on any problem) and be attentive to what it is we’re doing or could be doing. I like to believe that’s what Picasso meant when he said inspiration must find you working.

Attention is a powerful asset for us as creative workers to have, regardless of the work we are (or are not) doing.

We therefore don’t need to seek out creativity, we simply need to get out of our own way and let the ideas find us.

Illustration by Chris Florence.