Over at the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills is talking about motivation, specifically the motivation of fictional characters to do the things they do. She explains that ‘motivation can be external–a desire to please, to be found attractive, to be accepted’ or ‘internal–a drive to succeed, a passion to experience adventure, a fear of failure’.
Motivation is not a new concept to this blog and I have explored it in a number of previous posts.
In What did you do that for? Rewards and motivation I discussed the use of extrinsic rewards (such as stickers, awards and cash incentives) for school students; and questioned the authenticity of intrinsic motivation, which ‘is usually related to something of one’s own choice through interest, challenge or purpose’, in an institution at which attendance is compulsory. I suggested some strategies that teachers may employ to stimulate an intrinsic love of learning.
Continuing the consideration of the effect of compulsory schooling on a learner’s motivation, the post Why do I have to? explored the use of philosophy as a tool for making the goals of education explicit. All three philosophers: Peter Worley, Michael Hand and Stephen Boulter agreed that if students knew why they were expected to learn certain things, they would be more motivated to do so.
A discussion of the impact of praise upon a learners’ motivation and achievement was stimulated by reading The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz, a book recommended by Anne Goodwin. The Post Seeking praise – Stephen Grosz revisited explored Grosz’s suggestion that praise could cause a loss of competence, especially if children were being praised for being clever. Responses to the post, including a guest post by Anne Goodwin, added greater depth to the discussion.
Other ideas about motivation abound.
Shelley Wilson’s blog Live every day with intention, which promises to inspire and motivate you (‘A motivational blog about living life to the full, writing, reading and feeling inspired to follow your dreams’) is the basis of her new book ‘How I changed my life’.
In this TED talk The puzzle of motivation, Dan Pink explains that the value of intrinsic motivation is a scientific fact. While the focus of his talk is the business world, the findings are equally relevant to education. He says that external rewards may work in limited situations but that they often impede creativity. He says that ‘the secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.’
Which brings me back to my motivation for writing this post and sharing these thoughts: Charli’s post, mentioned at the beginning of this article, was an introduction to her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) show the underlying motivation of a character.
My motivations for engaging with the flash fiction challenges set by Charli are both intrinsic and extrinsic:
- the dual challenges of writing to a prompt with a clearly defined word count;
- the opportunity of writing fiction;
- exploring the application of Charli’s prompt, however tenuous, to education;
- the camaraderie of the fellow writers and the opportunity to read and comment on their posts and flash fiction pieces; and
I appreciate the feedback, support and encouragement I receive in response to my writing.
In her prompt, Charli suggested that the character ‘may not even understand the motivation fully, but (that I should) let the reader grasp it.’ I have written two pieces in response to this prompt. I hope you enjoy them, and get an inkling of what motivates the characters.
More than numbers
The more he stared at the numbers the less sense they made.
They swirled and blurred. He just didn’t get it.
“Numbers don’t lie,” they’d admonished.
“But they don’t tell either,” he’d thought.
The hollowness left when all he knew had been extracted could not be filled with the smorgasbord of numbers loaded on the page.
The richness of lives reduced to mere squiggles.
“This is what’s important,” they’d said, fingers drumming tables of data.
With heaviness of heart he closed the book and walked away.
“They are not even numbers,” he thought. “If they were numbers, they’d count!”
More than words
“More!” they implored.
She surveyed their eager faces then glanced at the clock.
“Just one more?”
“Okay. Just one more.”
Before she could choose, a book landed in her lap.
“This one,” he said.
“Yes,” they chorused. “It’s a good one!”
She smiled agreement, then started to read.
They joined in, remembering, anticipating.
She turned the page.
“Wait!” he said. “Go back.”
“Did you see that?” He pointed to the page.
“But look what he’s doing,” someone else chimed in.
They all laughed.
The shared joy of a beloved book. Each time the same. Each time a little more.
Thank you for reading. I do appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or my flash fiction pieces.