Creativity and the Need for Free Space

Money prevents creativity.

This was one of the conclusions in the previous post.

Another post was about something else that prevents creativity: the need for approval.

Both conclusions were based on sound research. Of course it is all a bit more complex than that, but still the conclusions were very interesting.

I think this is especially interesting, because at first it seems counter intuitive. Almost everyone would say that encouragement in the form of money or praise, motivates people. But obviously that does not count for being creative.

From the book in this post:

To do something for a reward, the whole order of the activity, and the energy required for it, are determined by arbitrary requirements that are extraneous to the creative activity itself. This activity then turns into something mechanical and repetitious, or else it mechanically seeks change for its own sake. The state of intense passion and vibrant tension that goes with creative perception then dies away. The whole thing becomes boring and uninteresting, so that the kind of energy needed for creative perception and action is lacking. As a result, even greater rewards, or punishments, are needed to keep the activity going.

From the video in this post:

As long as the tasks involved just mechanical skill, bonuses work as they expected, the higher the pay the better the performance. Once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance. For simple, straight forward tasks, the kind of incentives of, if you do this then you get that, they are great. Tasks that are algorithmic, a set of rules that you just follow along and get a right answer, if then, rewards, carrots and sticks, outstanding. But when a task gets more complicated, when it requires some conceptual, creative thinking, those kind of motivaters don’t work.

Does that mean that people should not be motivated to be creative?

I still think that people might need an encouragement to be creative (those who forgot we are already creative by nature) but at the same time, that is exactly where our motivation should stop.

We, not being the other person, can never know HOW they should be creative. We can never know what their interest is. What their talents are. Where their passion lies. What the other is so obsessed about, that he wants to practice it over and over and over again.

So in order to be really creative, the only thing someone needs is free space. The rest has to come from within, not from outside in the form of rewards. Not in the form of rewards like money and not in the form of rewards like approval or praise.

Creativity and the need for free space


  1. Hmm, this is an issue that i have been pondering over a whole lot.

    Personally, i find discontent a nearly unlimited source of motivation : ). However, it is not that simple i think, considering meaning and the sharing of meaning.
    Suppose nobody ever gave you any positive feedback on this site, would you continue doing this and go further and further ?
    What i am trying to say is, creativity gets bound by the surrounding culture because that’s the only place it can develop (providing money, food, shelter, the whole Maslow thing). If people are not ready for something, they either neglect or reject the works/ideas of those “madmen or -women”, so these never reach full potential or they never get properly understood.
    Take Bohm’s theories for example, i’m curious to see if they will get a serious second look, but i’m kinda pessimistic.


    1. You raise some very interesting things. First there is of course much more to it than just the few conclusions I raised here. But as I was writing this post, it got complicated and cluttered the more I wrote. Then I started over and just gave a few conclusions, that, out of context, might sound too simple. So I absolutely agree that it is not that simple.

      Also your question if I would continue on this site if I would never get any positive feedback is really very interesing and I have some things to say about that.

      The first is that I think it has to do with the development of creativity. I wrote a post about that ( ) where my view was (based again on the book Science, Order and Creativity) that the free play and no interference from outside are especially important in the early stages of creative development. Later on, when those are developed enough, it becomes important to get feedback. Not only important, I think it even becomes essential at a certain point, as it further shapes your own view.

      But that does not have to be just positive feedback. Personally I love critical, intelligent and at the same time respectful feedback (you are rather good at that I must say :-)

      Would I continue if I never got any positive feedback? Of course I would wonder if there is any point to do so at a certain moment, but at this time I have the feeling there is still so much I want to write about that I think I would. Getting my thoughts in relatively readable blogposts is my main goal at this moment.

      Then what you say about creativity that is bound by the surrounding culture is also really interesting. And in a way I certainly agree. But I think the reason for that is also a cultural thing. In our culture everything has to have a goal, which, in most cases, is economical. And even being creative has to serve that goal. Nothing wrong with that, but I do think it prevents us all to get to this absolute individual creative free space that we all have by nature. But because it might not seem useful to others, does not mean it is not useful in the long run, even to those same others.

      What you say about ideas that are neglected and rejected because people are not ready, is something that is slowly changing I think. And I really think that blogging is one of the things that can help in that, because they provide a certain free space to potentially every individual.

      As for Bohm, I really hope his ideas get a serious second look, although I am also not that optimistic about it. But for me personally there is so much in his publications (and what is published about him) that I have the feeling I can build upon that for a long time. That is, from what I understand of it. And maybe some others, that have a better understanding of the physics (although a good understanding of the mainstream physics might even be a disadvantage) will do so too.

      Well, again just my views for this moment …

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