Negative Motivation

“Love? Pah. Overrated. Here, look, these are my three wives: Pestilence, Famine and Death. Do you think I married them for their personalities? Their personalities could shatter entire planets! Arranged marriages, every one, but they worked out. They inspired me. Knowing that they were waiting at home for me is what keeps me here — 75 lights years away.”
Londo to Vir in Babylon 5: “The War Prayer”

A side aspect of this posting — the contract duration of some young scientists of only a year or even a quarter of a year — led me to think about negative motivation. After all, much of motivation when it comes to creativity seems to be focused on “following your dreams”, “doing what you want”, “acting at your own pace”, or “not being in ‘the man’s’ pocket”.

But then, in some cases “doing what you want” or “acting at your own pace” might not work:

“But it’s not a serious experiment with a control–”
“It’s a serious experiment, all right,” said Ender. “The kind of experiment you perform when you don’t give a damn about getting funding, you just need results and you need them now. The kind of experiment you perform when you have no idea what the results will be or even if you’ll know how to interpret them, but there are a bunch of crazy pequeninos planning to get in starships and spread a planet-killing disease all over the galaxy so you’ve got to do something.”
“Xenocide” by Orson Scott Card

and many of the famous artists of the past actually did their greatest works with remittance works.

And I wonder — how often have you finished your creative works just with negative motivation — the threat of being downsized or fired, the anguish of hunger, the desire not to create works of art but just to distract yourself from a person you (think you) love because she is intelligent, creative, has her own mind and is thus very attractive but who is also … in short — how much of your or anybody’s creativity is due to negative motivation?

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