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Are you more creative when you’re forced to work?

 

In Daniel Akst’s book Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess I found this line to be curious:

At least one study of blocked writers has found that they were more productive and more creative when they were essentially forced to write instead of scribbling only when the mood struck them.

So I looked up the study and, yes, it’s true, being forced to write made writers more productive and more creative:

Data for 3 groups of 9 ‘blocked’ writers who sought treatment to increase their output as writers are presented. Academicians who charted both their writing output and their generation of creative ideas for writing over 10 weeks of treatment showed the highest level of creativity under contingency management conditions that essentially forced them to write habitually. Subjects who wrote spontaneously reported modest levels of creativity, once writing was practiced with some regularity. Subjects who voluntarily abstained from professional writing generated minimal numbers of creative ideas. Conclusions:

(1) External contingencies that ‘produce’ writing seem to facilitate, not impede, creativity.

(2) Spontaneity in writing is relatively ineffective, compared to contingency management, for producing written copy or novel and useful ideas.

Source: “Contingency management in writing and the appearance of creative ideas: Implications for the treatment of writing blocks” Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 21, Issue 5, 1983, Pages 537–543

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