Motivation

Tuesday, day 76

Getting stonewalled so resolutely by my local cultural contact last Monday had quite an impact on me. Initially, I felt so irritated by his about-face that I immediately felt determined to find another way to achieve what it was I wanted to achieve. P, Tony and I discussed possible plans and approaches. I reviewed the lists of contacts I had been given for Lospalos and tried to come up with some alternatives.

But as the week continued, I had to admit my enthusiasm to be busy was waning somewhat. True, we had started up some very successful music-making jams and events on our verandah every afternoon. But this still left many hours in the day free.

What did I want to do with this time? There were things I had imagined I would be doing regularly as part of my residency in Timor. I imagined myself building soundscapes made up of locally-recorded sounds, using my Zoom recorder and either Cubase or Garageband. I had film footage from the songwriting project with the women’s group in Baucau that showed the genesis of that song, and the way they nutted out the words together, eventually performing it through in at first halting, and then more confident voices. I could edit this footage to make a short descriptive film of the project and its process (for as long as the battery power in my computer lasted during the day, that is).

And I could play. I had ideas for music on the clarinet, ideas for music to create with the flute, lots of interesting creative tasks and drills to play on the sax or drums… I had plenty to occupy myself with. Yet I felt lethargic and reluctant, and my slowness to get going got me thinking a lot about motivation, my own, and other people’s.

What keeps us motivated in our lives? How much is the motivation that gets us out and doing things extrinsic, and how much of it is intrinsic? The most obvious extrinsic motivation for working is the pay packet you will get at the end of your work… but as I’ve seen here with Mana Er, that in itself is not necessarily a motivation to do a thorough or excellent job.

What I really began to see, however, was the way that motivation – extrinsic or intrinsic, or a bit of both – was somewhat subject to your environment. In Melbourne I have to work. I don’t have an independent means of income, so work is the way that I get the money I need to pay my rent, eat, etc. I am also a bit bloody-minded about how I spend my time – I figure that I will spend more hours per day doing work that I will doing anything else, so I should aim to spend that doing something that stimulates and entertains me. Therefore I work in an area that I feel very emotionally invested in.

I love what I do, and the skills and ideas that I can bring into a new environment. Why wasn’t I just offering workshop after workshop here in Lospalos?

One reason is because of energy. I found myself starting to feel quite protective of my energy. By now, I knew how much of my energy was going into just figuring out and managing how to make the project happen, whenever I tried to do something creative here. Specifically, into managing people. While I was happy to help other people develop skills or to guide them through new experiences, it wasn’t the main reason I was here. So lots of project ideas started to seem too hard.

Another reason was because I felt confused about what I was dong here, and what other people thought I was doing here. So many malae come here to help the Timorese. Whereas I knew that I had come here primarily to learn and to be exposed to new things. Obviously the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but how could I set things up so that it was more of an exchange?

I also wasn’t feeling particularly musical or creative. This may be because I felt like I was using up most of my energy constantly trying to navigate my way through unexpected roadblocks – these navigations were using up all my creative brain-space, in tandem with the everyday creative brainspace required for me to communicate in Tetun.

I’ve always thought of myself as a very intrinsically-motivated person. There is not much money, and there is an awful lot of work, in the kind of work I do. In fact though, lots of the work I do evolves through the working environment I have cultivated over time for myself. It is through the networks that I develop, and part of the motivation to do a good job is about building a reputation that will see more offers for work come my way. In other words, there is an extrinsic motivation at play too.

Here, almost no-one in any position within an organisation seems to be showing much interest in working with me. Lots of kids do! Other foreigners (like Kalim from Indonesia, and the ADM sisters) do. But only one adult person from Lospalos has suggested he’d like to do some music work with me. Others have expressed reserved interest, but their real motivation seems to be about extracting money from me, rather than about providing new or different opportunities for their constituents. My environment here is thus not nearly as enthusiastic for what it is that I do as it is in Australia, and so my intrinsic motivation to develop work regardless is severely reduced.

I know too, that I can just stop worrying about it, and do my own musical thing, here in the comfort of my own home. But that isn’t what I came to Timor for! I want whatever outcomes that develop for me here to be in response to the fact that I am in this new environment, rather than be because I’ve suddenly got more spare time on my hands to play music (albeit by myself or with Tony) than I ever have in Australia.

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