Creativity under pressure is just one of the fascinating aspects of our human minds. Some of you with creative skills may be able to identify with this line of thinking. It is interesting that sometimes when under pressure we have more power to create enabling us to produce our best works. It is based on our capacity to produce under imposed demands or expectations.
In 1853, the Costa Rican President, embarrassingly enough, realized that their nation had no national anthem. To make it even worse, the envoys from the United States and Great Britain were on their way. In desperation, the President requested that Manuel Maria Gutierrez, the most well-known musician, compose a national anthem — in five days or less! (no pressure there)
Gutierrez explained that he had always played by ear and did not even know how to write music. He lost his cool and, in exasperation, he threw him in prison telling him that she must produce an anthem. Now, here is where the proof of how pressure and mind over matter worked its creative magic. Gutierrez was able to create a beautiful march tune. It was performed on June 11, 1853 and is still Costa Rica’s national anthem to this day. What a wonderful example of perseverance under pressure.
A research team from Harvard headed up by Teresa Amabile, Ph.D requested students who had different levels of creativity to write a story'”a description about being a certain age. Half of the group was told that they would be judged. The other part of the group was told that they were not being judged. The end result was unexpected. It seems that the ones whose creativity was challenged didn’t diminish their skills. The more gifted writers seemed to write stories that were less creative when being judged. It’s interesting that the less-gifted writers performed better when being judged.
Dean Whitney, a research associate at Harvard, explained that “the interplay between a person’s skill level and motivation may be the key. At high skill levels, you’re intrinsically motivated to write, and you’ll be really creative. For these folks, performance expectations take attention away from the joy that usually goes with writing, and it puts it on the fact of evaluation. Creativity suffers. Writers who aren’t very good, however, generally have low motivation to begin with. But the threat of evaluation bumps up their inspiration a bit. Although, it’s external motivation, it’s better than none.”
The bottomline is that the human brain is incredibly fascinating!