I want to talk about motivations.
People talk a lot about motivation. but the way that word is used is a lot different from my idea of motivations. To say someone has no motivation is to say that someone doesn't seem to want to do something that one might expect of another. A parent might use it in relation to a child that won't study for an exam. A coach might say it about an athlete with natural ability who does not seem to be willing to commit to a regular training schedule. But I don't think that understanding of motivation is an actual thing.
Our motivations are complex and multifaceted. They are the feelings and responses we desire, either consciously or subconsciously. Because there are many of them, they can sometimes be in conflict and pull us in different directions. I suspect that they run extremely deep into each of our beings and because of this, they can often be difficult for us to articulate. Nevertheless, I want to attempt to try to give some sense of what my motivations are and where I think they need to go.
I have two areas of creative focus in my life. You are engaging with one of them right now: my writing on this site. The other area is music, which I have talked about here quite often. It's my motivations to do these things that are particular interest to me right now. Why do I write? Why do I play? What exactly is it that I want to get out of these things?
The process of sharing your creations with others brings with it an inherent element of egotism. By showing another person something that you have created, you are implicitly saying that you believe that it may be of value or interest to that person, at least enough to justify interrupting their lives for however long it might take to share something. This might be an uncomfortable reality to some creative people. Some might feel like ego may not appear to be a factor in their creative process, but this only stays the case as long as those paintings remain hidden in the basement. From then on, it's about you.
I admit that this is something I have yet to fully come to terms with, even after I had this realisation. I aspire to be a humble, polite and conscientious person across all areas of my life; how successful I am in this regards is for others to judge. Often I feel like I should treat my creative pursuits like the person tucking their paintings away in the basement. Why should I interrupt someone, whose precious time is of equal value to mine, to share with them something I have created?
A tension that exists within me is with this instinct and the other part of my creative personality, an egotistic side I've always had. I happen to think I'm really good at some of this stuff. I'm not deluded enough to think that I'm the best writer or musician in the world, but I feel like I'm as good as a lot of other people who give themselves those titles. For a time I was stuck in an interesting but debilitating vacuum of trying to come across as really good at these things but not really having the discipline to do the work in order to justify this self-belief.
The other factor in all of this is that I feel as though I have often actively (if not consciously) sought the approval of people who I feel are important in my life. Whether it was someone who I cared about, admired or was jealous of, I feel that there is a element of my personality that could be described as needy. Again, a curious flip side of this is that I've always had a fiercely independent streak and a capacity to self-sustain in different situations and at different times, which I believe to have served me well over my life. These two traits may not be mutually exclusive but they certainly are interesting to contrast against one another.
I'm sure that we all have different aspects of our personalities and motivations that are seemingly in conflict. The way to prevent these tensions from becoming overwhelming might just lie in our ability to balance them against one another and walk a middle path, rather than pretending we can find a trick that will make them go away forever. It seems that the right path for me is to find a way to be comfortable demanding the attention of others without being in need of their approval. Any quest motivated by a desire for external validation is going to eventually become problematic in some way. It seems to me that answers to these questions that we have about ourselves must be found within, because we're the only ones who know exactly who we really are and why we want to do the things that we do.