Home » Blogs » The Creative Mind » The Urge to Create: Jane Piirto on Motivation

The Urge to Create: Jane Piirto on Motivation

Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton

“My identity shifted when I got into recovery.” Eric Clapton

In her new book Creativity for 21st Century Skills, Professor Jane Piirto describes “what many creative people really do when they create” (according to the publisher summary) and includes references to the impact of creative expression in the lives of creative people.

One of the many topics she covers is the motivation to create.

She writes, “The main cause for creativity is that the creative person wants to be creative, in whatever domain he or she is working – whether it be woodworking in the basement, dancing, acting, drawing, singing, doing science, mathematics, inventing, being an entrepreneur, being an athlete, cooking, sewing, building, designing.

“People who are creative must have motivation. Creators intend to be creative, to make—something. People have to want to be creative. Creativity takes a long time and a certain amount of obsession.”

She thinks “Motivation is the only and main personality attribute that all creative people have and need.”

Creators also must have the talent necessary to create in their area, and have had the environmental influence and support necessary, she notes.

Rewards and intrinsic motivation

“What are the rewards for being creative? Fame is not usually one of them.”

She quotes musician Mat Callahan: “I have never found any correlation between money and the effectiveness of the creative process and its results. Do I produce a demand for my creative work… do I produce marketable commodities? Maybe. Do I apply my energies to my creative work, regardless? Certainly. Continuously. Why? Because of the satisfaction I derive from the process itself and the pleasure it brings to others.”

Piirto explains, “The most enriching rewards for creative endeavor are intrinsic; that is, the reward is in the pleasure the creator takes in doing the work itself, and in achieving the result, and not from the pay or the prize.

“Even painters who don’t have galleries, musicians who don’t have audiences, writers who aren’t published, actors who act in community theater, dancers who dance alone, scientists and mathematicians who spread the table with arcane formulas to solve personally challenging problems, do not stop doing.

“While some may say that creative people need a killer instinct, and need to be so driven that they would do anything for fame, recognition, or validation, continued creative production derives from less cruel motives. The work itself is intrinsically interesting.”

Creative obsession and this inner drive to create can often be redeeming or healing.

Piirto notes that musician Eric Clapton suffered from addictions to heroin and alcohol.

“After two stints in rehab, Clapton was able to quit, and has remained sober for over twenty years. He said that it was his desire to play and create music that saved him.”

How are you motivated? Have you had benefits from being creative?

Books by Jane Piirto:

Creativity for 21st Century Skills: How to Embed Creativity into the Curriculum

Talented Children and Adults: Their Development and Education

Understanding Creativity

Related post with more quotes by Piirto: Creative Passion and Gifted Adults: Prodded by Our Angelic and Demonic Muse.
~ ~

The Urge to Create: Jane Piirto on Motivation

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
~ ~
Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
~ ~

Emotional Health Resources - Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.

One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Eby, D. (2011). The Urge to Create: Jane Piirto on Motivation. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 12, 2018, from


Last updated: 5 May 2011
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 May 2011
Published on All rights reserved.