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Pay and Pay: Extrinsic versus Intrinsic Motivation Continued - The Motive Center
September 16th, 2004
03:33 pm


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Pay and Pay: Extrinsic versus Intrinsic Motivation Continued
Mike raised a great point in one of the comments, and I want to bring it up here. (There may be a slicker way to do this--but I'm new to this.)

Mike noted that:
"...I don't want to be a freelance or hired illustrator for, as you pointed out, I wouldn't get satisfaction from a 'job well done,' no matter how well paid if I was forced to draw things other folks want. It's a drag, and the few times I've been hired that way I've hated every minute of it."

I think part of we are seeing is that external pay can represent external obligation, and that's no fun--it means it is not yours anymore, you've been disempowered. And considering that a critical motive for visual AND verbal artists who display their work is the Power/Influence motive, that means disempowerment is loss of motivation!

Mike continues: "But I still want to get paid for my art. It's a form of recognition and while monetary, represents an emotional fulfillment as well."

Excellent point! There are clearly people who get paid who do enjoy it, and comments on this blog notwithstanding, there people who have fun with their jobs and still get paid! Why should art be different from any other vocation or even job? I love my job, and I still get paid for it. I think this deserves more study, but I do have a hypothesis or two. You should feel free to propose more or different ones!

1. Some people can "detach" the joy of the process from the monetary result. I know a few professional writers who love writing and also enjoy getting paid, but they keep the two separate. They enjoy the process as it occurs. This works better if (a) you have the ability to compartmentalize (some don't), and (b) you are productive enough not to worry about deadlines too much. For some people, deadlines are anxiety-provoking and inhibitory (see Yerkes-Dodson Law), for others they are motivating, as in your pre-con productivity described below (also see Yerkes-Dodson Law!).

Every year, I get ready to display artwork at the con. Usually, there's a little rush of productivity right before the con and I get more done then than any other time of the year. I also usually do my best work at that time. While I do work to make me happy, I also hope it gathers attention and that I can sell some of it as well. This is a somewhat different situation than just having art as a job...But I can't help but feel a connection in the motivation between me wanting to do good work, be recognized for what I want to do and to get paid for it. Perhaps I'm missing a point here, or perhaps the visual arts differ in some manner from writing?"

2. My second hypothesis: people can also use the external reward as an intrinsic reward if you perceive it the right way--so instead of seeing it as an external obligation, you see it as feedback on performance. Salespeople on commission often see the money not just as money, but as evidence that they are doing better than the goal (Achievement motive in action).

So you can either detach the two elements, or link them selectively. In either case you need to manage your perception of the money, or the contract, or the requirement (if any). It sounds to me that in some situations (e.g., cons), you can do the work regardless of the money because you know the work will be seen, but once that is established, you are comfortable with thinking "gee, I'd like to get paid for that!" Pay can indicate that people value your art enough to pay for it! That makes money into feedback around excellence rather than a demotivator. Especially since, if I read you correctly, you are not obligated to anyone pre-con, you have just done your work and people can take it or leave it.

And in case I haven't made it clear, no, I don't think the visual arts are that different from writing--or from the performing arts, for that matter, having done a good bit of that.

Thanks, Mike!

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 16th, 2004 02:46 pm (UTC)
For many fan-fiction writers, especially those who can't get paid for it (like Harry Potter fans), the extrinsic reward comes in a variety of ways. The main way (IMO) is reviews. I don't judge my writing by the reviews I get, but I'd much rather get reviews than not get them. It can be discouraging when (as I am) you're one of a handful of writers posting fics to a Yahoogroup and not even one group member (and this particular group has 700 members) leaves a review, especially if you worked on a story for a long time. I'm not talking about a lengthy critique - I mean something as simple as "I liked this story" or "This story stank." ANYTHING. The story is about 35,000 words, has 5 chapters and an epilogue and people could post reviews for individual chapters; I posted it on another site where I got almost 150 reviews and was very happy about that, but I have to wonder why I got no reviews in the other group. I actually think it's a pretty good story (one of my best) and I know I shouldn't equate number of reviews with how good the story is. But I still find it discouraging that among 700 people in that particular group, not one seems to have read my story. [/stupid fanfic-writer whinge]
[User Picture]
Date:September 17th, 2004 11:59 am (UTC)

Extrinsic Rewards...or not

Not a stupid whinge at all, and I'm afraid it's not limited to the fan-fiction contingent. I see an awful lot of published writers who say things like "even my spouse never reads my work," or get frustrated because they don't get reviewed, or sit in bookstores waiting to sign books for people who never come. (I've been there with my mystery writer wife, believe me.) We do write to be read--it would be nice if people told us they have!

The great thing about online writing is that it is possible to get very quick feedback, but by the same token I wonder if the pain of not being read is that much keener because you are closer to the readers. Perhaps you could comment? Following that thought, is it possible that those 700 people just haven't gotten to your story yet? I don't know how frequently people post, but if even half of them posted stories near your length, that's over six million words to read! Maybe the Yahoogroup's just too big for decent, timely feedback?
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