“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”
~ Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982), born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, is her pen name. She was born in Russia, lived through the Revolution of 1917 when her bourgeois family was harassed by the new Communist regime under Lenin. She graduated from the Petrograd State University in 1924, and got permission to visit family in Chicago in 1926. From there she found work in Hollywood writing screenplays and other jobs in the movie industry. She met her husband there and they were married in 1929. Her writing career began in America with her two most successful novels being, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). She then turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy and many of her ideas were at the foundation of Libertarianism. For Ayn Rand, the rights of the individual were supreme.
Ayn Rand proposes an ideal when she describes the creative man as one who is motivated by the desire to achieve. One might suggest that a successful business person has a similar motivation. But there is a difference because of what the creative person does. This person creates, that is, brings something into being that did not exist before. It is original – unique unto itself. As believers, we speak of God as The Creator – bringing the universe into existence, literally from nothing. The creative person acts in a similar way.
I was taught as a child that God created the world as an act of love. While I don’t presume to know the mind and heart of God, my own life experience allows me to relate to that teaching. I am an author who has penned a few different types of books. They include a writing skills manual for high schoolers, an inspirational book about my years in education and two novels. In each case the writing was an act of love – I loved creating these books and I hoped they would benefit those who read them. I wanted to achieve something that I had never done before. Each book was unique in terms of the other three I wrote and in terms of other books on the market. This reflection that I write here is part of a series, but it is unique. It is a challenge that I love. If it influences even one reader, I’m delighted!
Rand goes on to state her belief that the creative person is not motivated by a desire to defeat others. I agree, there is no creativity in that. There may be skill and cunning involved, but that’s all about competition, not creation! There’s no sense of love in the act, unless it is self love. That would cause me to write a book with the intention of working hard to have that book garner more sales than that of another author with whom I wish to compete. I want to beat that person by writing a more successful book. I’m setting myself up to measure my worth as an author in terms of beating another author with better sales and ranking.
I really think that, in our society, we look at competition in an unhealthy way. The game must have a winner and a loser. We preach the virtues of being a “graceful winner” or a “good loser” but too often, the game involves a certain level of violence – violence that is considered assault away from the rink, court, or playing field. In hockey, I played defence as a kid, and I remember coaches being upset with me because I rarely threw body checks at opposing forwards. I practiced skating backwards for hours so I could keep up with those opposing players as they swept across our blue line. I preferred to keep my body between them and the goal so I could steal the puck from them and lead a rush into their end, or if they took a shot, I could drop in front of it. I was told this was all wrong. Take the man out and off the puck! Problem was, I’d take myself out of the play in the process. Although I was told again and again to play the body, my defence-mate and I had the best defensive record in the league for three straight seasons. Even as a teenager, I sought to do things my way. I hated conflict and violence.
For me, healthy competition is against myself – against my last performance. I played hockey because I loved the game – the skills and finesse. I love writing because it is about my skills and imagination that allows me to create something that never existed before. Many authors talk about the excitement and utter delight they felt when they held their first published book in their hands. I feel that with every new book I publish. Every one is new and unique. It never existed anywhere before… and it’s mine! As Ayn Rand says, it is about personal achievement – doing something I’ve never done before. For many of us, it is also about benefitting our readers in some way. And my fellow authors? We are all much better creative persons when we help and support each other, so that his success or her success is also my success. Thank you for this inspiration, Ayn Rand!