Drive vs Determination

My wife Liz and I have been engaging in some interesting discussions concerning drive and determination, and their definitions in relation to the creative arts. Most people would assume they mean exactly the same thing, and to a certain extent they would be right. However, I have always considered them to be two separate concepts and, although not mutually exclusive, are entirely dependent on what is being sought as an outcome.

Let me elaborate – the two words imply different things, in my book. One has a finite goal in mind, while the other goes beyond that. When someone says to me that they’re determined to do something, like lose weight or run a marathon, there’s a definite end in mind and that once they’ve achieved it, then that’s it – job done. Having drive, or more precisely perhaps, being driven, means, in my view, that even after someone gets to where they want to go they’ll carry on doing whatever  it is they’re engaged in, regardless of how far they’ve gone or what they’ve achieved.

And I think that is what marks out the greats in the creative field – look at the great artists, as a case in point. Many of them bequeathed us highly affecting pieces of art, that even today (after centuries in some cases), still have the power to move and affect us on some deeply emotional level. Same goes for classical musicians of the past, as well as writers. This is because many of them were driven to create, to strive for a perfection, as far as it’s humanly possible to do so, in their art. Once they’d painted, sculpted, composed or written their latest piece of work, they very rarely sat still for long – they then went on to the next project. Maybe that was because, as good as that last piece is in the eyes of others, it was never good enough for them. In other words, they were driven by an inner compulsion to go on until they’d found whetever it was they were looking for.

Having drive doesn’t necessarily ensure success, of course, but it goes a long way, I think, in pushing the artist into that place where the possibility of greatness exists. Most of the time it’s not even a conscious drive – it’s just such an integral part of their craft and art. They just naturally paint, sculpt, compose or write. It’s part of their daily routine.

And that also implies a certain level of obsession with whatever it is they do. Not a dangerous obsession – but an obsession nonetheless: with detail, getting it right, with texture, with feeling and transcribing that emotion onto paper or canvas, or just simply attempting to transfer their vision from their mind to the real world. The vision captivates them and compels them to get it out there, and refuses to let them go until that vision has either been realised completely and utterly, and correct in every little nuance, or they die first. Perfection in any art is a fraught, difficult road.

Determination appears to be different, however. How many times have you heard something like the following:  “I am determined to climb Mount Everest before I’m a certain age” or “I am determined to travel the world” or “I am determined that I will make it out of this shithole and move somewhere better”. There are definite statements of intent in those utterances. There are concrete goals. Which means, in my book, that once they’ve been reached, he/she/whoever will be satisfied and then stop, being able to claim that they did what they set out to do. The project means less to them after that, and becomes nothing but a memory. There’s less, I don’t know, substantiality to being determined than being driven (although that’s not to say that you don’t need determination to succeed).

In the end, I guess, a mixture of the two is desirable for anyone who takes their creativity seriously. But, if you’re truly determined to achieved some success with it, then you’ll need the extra turbo-boost of drive to get you there.

(Any thoughts/comments on this – would love to hear them….)

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One Response to “Drive vs Determination”

  1. Me again!

    I like this post and I think it’ll speak to a lot of people who engage in any kind of creative undertaking and, in the most part, I think you’re right. For my tuppence-worth, I’d replace determination with the concept of a goal or a dream.

    I’ve written for a long time and it’s something that I just do – my drive is to crack on, making time in my day to pursue this activity. My goals, at the time, were fairly straightforward and could easily fall into your definition of determined – I wanted to get published, I wanted a collection, I wanted a novel published. Thankfully, I achieved them all. However, in my case, those dreams just got larger – I want more stories published, I want a bigger collection published, I want novels published by mainstream houses.

    Drive is the key factor, as you say and to move on, you have to make your “I’m determined”/goal statements bigger and broader to expand as your career does.

    Like you, with this blog. I remember the conversations where you weren’t sure – “hey,” I said, “what’ve you got to lose?” It’s become much more than you ever intended it to be (I think) because a) you have the drive to focus and bring in different people and attack different points and b) you were determined to put together a blog that was worth coming to. You’ve done that, now you’re determined to make it better and better.

    Once again, I see to have gone off topic! Ah well, it’s lunchtime!

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