Want to encourage creativity? Incentivize it!

As I observe, watch and imbibe the journey of nearly every ‘genuine’ creative person these days, I realize how difficult it is to walk this path. I use the word genuine since some people can have the illusion of being creative without realizing or just use it as a buzzword for their gain and to impress. You got to often pick one between wooing the world and being yourself, the mediocre and the outstanding, making a living to survive and actually living life to thrive and to top it all, riches and the quality of work.

During the Renaissance period, Italy produced some of the most incredibly creative people who are till date celebrated. It is said that the famous painter and sculptor, Michelangelo from the age of 6 to 10, learnt how to handle a hammer and chisel before actually reading and writing. Being unhappy with schooling, he took apprenticeships with unheard names such as Ghirlandaio and Bertoldo for most of his youth. Learning and excelling at the basics of his craft while getting commissions by one of Florence’s largest churches simultaneously after being recommended, it was only at the age of 24 when he produced his first masterpiece called Pieta.

Now, to the naked eye, Pieta is a visual delight and considered the work of a pure genius. Surely, that could be the case. But few would ever see the fact that Michelangelo not only had to put in years of effort in it, but also was backed by his family and his mentors, who were willing to emotionally and financially invest in him smartly while permitting him to find his own way of success. Without doubt, had he not earned commissions at churches and places where he could exhibit his work, no matter whether they were accepted by many or not, Michelangelo might have gone down as a sculptor who could never ‘reach his potential’, a phrase that is commonly used.

I was reading somewhere about how initiative will always trump incentives when it comes to a person having more longevity with the work they do. Sure, initiative or the love for work is an essential ingredient which brings out the best performances and the most original of thoughts. It makes you go beyond yourself while being within yourself.

However, the world can be an unforgiving place for a person who projects themselves solely as out of this world. What baffles me is that mediocrity has been commercialized to such an extent, that it is promoted only for the powerful to gain more power and the rich to get richer. This perhaps explains why common education systems are focussed on preparing students to work for someone else’s gains more than theirs, without ever using their own head to make their life decisions. You got to ‘fit in’ more than ‘stand out’, as they say.

Creative people often have this dilemma of some of their works being so outstanding in quality that they fail to get the reward they deserve for it from society and vice a versa. Often, they are left with no choice but to bow down to the world. For someone not experienced or financially rich, being discouraged is very understandable. With the world facing money problems more than ever now, surviving becomes paramount more than anything else. Society kills many dreams in more than one way.

Some fields are fortunate to see the rich pump in the money, that encourages creativity from the young and the old alike. For example, in India, the director-actor duo of Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir Khan would have possibly never made a 3 Idiots the way it turned out to be, if it wasn’t for the producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra willing to invest in that sort of a script and giving them the license to try out something unique.

In Hollywood, you can go one step further to say that writers are superstars, who are revered by directors, actors and the film fraternity overall. From a Stephen King to a Jeff Nathanson, it is the power of the story that matters first, the box office success being a mere by-product. These people are full-time into the profession, without having to look for other jobs or means to survive if they have the talent that can be nurtured and expressed.

But in many parts of the world, the sad reality is that the majority of the rich want to accumulate money for themselves or want their children to live the legacy that they dictate rather than their individual one. So where is the money left in the world?

Adding to that, time has become a greater resource than before. It is practical economics that takes precedence. A youngster would certainly not want to be a Michelangelo in their creative field if they are not made to learn and get rewarded well financially from an early age for their works by associating with the people who have the ability and desire both, to incentivize creativity.

As they say, great things take time. But in this material world, they take money as well. So if we have to live in the reality and balance creativity with it, it is high time that incentives are given to people in other fields as well to bring out their creative side. Competitiveness can co-exist, but only for someone to improve by getting inspired rather than being put down for it. This has to be a rule set, which must be followed like it was in the Renaissance period.

Working together rather than against each other is the only way the marriage of finance and creativity can happen, through which the world can become a better place through ideas that can sustain the individual as well. That is the way creativity can then hope to keep killing mediocrity from time to time through deserving people.


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