I’ve always believed that writers do their best work when they are unhooked from the financial hamster wheel. Finally, I’ve found someone else who believes the same thing. Sort of. Below is a cartoon illustration of Dan Pink’s thesis, explicated in Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, that it isn’t money that motivates brain work, it’s autonomy, mastery, and purpose:

The trick, though, is to be making enough money that the cognitive worker–the writer, say–doesn’t have to think about it, doesn’t have to connect the specific work to paying the rent or buying new glasses.

I haven’t read Drive, and I’m guessing after watching this ten-minute animation that I don’t need to, but the notion makes a lot of sense to me. It makes me wonder what brilliant art we might have if there were more grants for creators, and more generous patrons.

Some writers, for example Tolkien, use the security of an academic job to free their writing. But teaching is a real job; it took him twelve years to write The Lord of the Rings. To me it’s significant that the work only really took off when he was writing not for his publisher but for his son. I can only imagine how much more quickly all this would have come together if he’d had a five-year MacArthur Fellowship and complete freedom.

I’d love to be free, just for a little while, from thinking about money. So if you are or happen to know a tech multi-millionaire, my email address is in the sidebar…