Intrinsic MotivationWhether biologically driven or enhanced by external factors, the factors at work behind the scenes in creative minds can be difficult to decipher.  Understanding the reasons why screenwriters behave the way they do, and how their creativity can be most effectively harnessed, will help producers and directors navigate the potentially problematic process of film production more skillfully.  This article aims to shed some light into two such reasons: the biological impulses at work in creative minds and the intrinsic motivation necessary for brilliant artistic expression.

The Connection between Creativity and Sensation Seekers

Sensation seeking is a personality trait that, according to Dr. Marvin Zuckerman, has biology at its base. According to research, a logical link exists between the sensation-seeking personality type and creative thinkers. Anyone who has lived or worked with creative individuals is aware of their striking personality traits. When working on a project, these individuals can appear impulsive, anxious, hostile, aloof, and unfriendly. But they are also open to new experiences, a quality that likens them to the sensation seekers of the world.

Two subcategories of this personality type, experience sensation seekers and physical sensation seekers, display the distinct differences between creative and non-creative thinkers.  Experience sensation seekers, those who seek extreme experiences that stimulate both mind and senses, gravitate toward creative endeavors. Screenwriters, for example, often freely admit their dalliances with these types of extreme experiences, such as drug abuse, alcoholism, or extreme sexual behavior.

People who engage in experience sensation seeking are likely to be critical and creative thinkers, who use their sensory experiences as fodder for their work, and who often see those experiences as necessary to their creative process. These are the type to think outside the box and to come up with unique, problem-solving ideas.

In contrast, physical sensation seekers look for the challenge of physical activity rather than sensory exploitation.  They participate in dangerous sports like white water rafting or cave diving rather than exercises that challenge the mind.  Those people who prefer outings and activities to experiences that enhance the senses are less likely to be creative. Professor Richard Ebstein has identified a gene linked to this sensation seeking personality, a discovery that has led scientists to conclude that there is a genetic component to creativity.

But this biological connection is not foolproof, nor should it be considered a direct correlation. For example, Stanley Kubrick, known for his innovative film directing techniques, did not take risks when it came to his own life. In fact, he reportedly did not enjoy the fast, reckless drive that Malcolm McDowell took him on in the actor’s sports car; their outing took place during the filming of Clockwork Orange. Apparently for Kubrick, it was sufficient to take risks in his craft. Where his personal life was concerned, he chose to remain safe and risk-free.

In additional to a biological predisposition for creativity, other factors are conducive to cultivating and producing creative work. In order to solve problems and to create, a person must be motivated to do so. It is not enough to merely have the capacity for creativity; it must also be harnessed and put to good use.

The Value of Intrinsic Motivation

A creative person must be motivated to produce work or to utilize divergent thinking. By definition, motivation means the desire, willingness, or reason behind doing something. Motivational speakers, for example, call their audiences to action. They inspire listeners in order to bring about results.

In a similar way, artists and writers draw upon motivation during their creative processes. There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation, as its name suggests, comes from the inside. It stems from really wanting to do what one is passionate about. It means exhibiting concentration and pleasure in a specified activity.

This type of motivation, which requires a true desire, is often much more powerful than financial (or other external) incentives. Regardless of which side of the creative process you are on, it’s important to remember that harnessing inner passion is preferable to relying on external rewards.. The state of being intrinsically motivated is favorable to creativity, while being extrinsically motivated can actually hinder it. Creative people are considered intrinsically motivated if they are engaging in activities as a result of their own interests; on the other hand, they are extrinsically motivated if they will get payment or a promotion out of the deal.

In many cases, the quality of an artist’s work can differ based on the type of motivation involved. For example, if a piece of art is commission by a client, the product might be less brilliant than a work created of the artist’s own volition. Extrinsic motivation can hamper the freedom of artistic expression because of the origin of the work. Artists often feel hindered by the restraints and parameters put on them by their clients and, as a result, are not nearly as inspired.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, intrinsic motivation can actually lead to a phenomenon called creative flow. In this process, artists become so involved in their work that that the external world falls away. When this happens, they are completely engrossed in whatever they are working on and, therefore, efficient and effective. The first element in this process is establishing clear goals in order to know what needs to be accomplished each step of the way. Next, distractions are eliminated, allowing for complete concentration on the work at hand. In order to successfully surrender to creative flow, individuals must refrain from worrying about the end result. In eliminating this fear of failure, self-consciousness takes a backseat to action and awareness. Finally, the activity becomes a reward in and of itself.

Film producers, then, should understand that writers will not always do their best work for money. Creative people want to feel valued and appreciated—not bought. In order to create this feeling of worth, a producer should involve the writer in other aspects of the project as well. Perhaps writers should be called in to make other decisions, participate in research, or engage in dinner and drinks with their colleagues. Then, when the film is complete, the writer should be invited to premieres and other events involving the film. Through these efforts, writers will feel valued for their contributions.

Many factors go into creating quality work. Because creative people gravitate toward new experiences, they often approach artistic projects with an open mind. As proven by research, individuals do their best work when intrinsically motivated. Even when monetary compensation is involved, writers should be made to feel that their work is valued beyond what can be substantiated by external incentives. In doing so, film producers can count on receiving commendable submissions from their screenwriters.