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Monday, 26 May 2014

Doing Creativity - Part 2/3 of Creativity: Being. Doing. Knowing.


Being, Doing, Knowing

By Daniel Dunlevie

Part 2


“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.  It’s a gift to the world and every being in it.  Don’t cheat us of your contribution.  Give us what you’ve got.” (Pressfield, 2002, p.165).

Being creative isn’t an easy task.  Some days ideas come in abundance.   There are times when you’re in a state-of-mind to just let your mind wonder.  There are days that you are inspired and motivated to get things done.  These days you make your thoughts and ideas come into fruition.  They flow. Without action thinking creatively just remains an energised and stimulated moment.  This step of “doing” creativity is paramount to current educational discourse about creativity.  But doing creative work is difficult because it requires us to think in a specific way and work with an ambiguous ending in sight.  It can be messy.  There is failure.  Creativity needs time to grow.  There needs to be analysis, evaluation, reflection and adjustment which can mean frequent changes and a consumption of time.  Perseverance is a key element during this process.  Writer Stephen King (2000) articulates this, “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position (p.7).”  

It is undeniable that some people are more creatively talented than others.  To these people the complexity of the creative thinking process is cohesive and intelligible and they can generate these thoughts into action that is practical and logical.  Those that don’t have a natural talent for such things have to work hard to develop it.  This is a vital note in the discourse of creativity.  People can become more creative with work.  Even those people with talent will be limited in their output if they lack motivation to act, direction to aim for, drive to continue, inspiration to grow or resilience to handle external and internal feedback.  Motivation is extremely important in creativity because it drives an individual to persist at problem solving.  Creative potential is not fulfilled unless “the individual (and his or her social support) is motivated to do so, and creative solutions are not found unless the individual is motivated to apply his or her skills” (Runco, 2005, p. 609). 

The Australian Curriculum incorporates creative and critical thinking in the curriculum identifying that it involves “Generating and applying new ideas in specific contexts, seeking existing situations in a new way, identifying alternative explanations, and seeing or making new links that generate a positive outcome. This includes combining parts to form something original, sifting and refining ideas to discover possibilities, constructing theories and objects, and acting on intuition. The products of creative endeavour can involve complex representations and images, investigations and performances, digital and computer-generated output, or occur as virtual reality” (ACARA, 2012).  This dismisses a misconception that creativity is just about the process of coming up with new ideas, as some ideas might be completely crazy and impractical.  Therefore an essential start of the creative process is the evaluation of its worth.  

Doing creativity entails making, playing and exploring.  There are many models that compartmentalise the process of creative thinking.  These were established for different purposes and have different outcomes in mind.  Plsek (1997) has attempted one such model which identifies three common themes that stream through all of the models.  The first link is that the creative process involves purposeful analysis, imaginative idea generation and critical evaluation.  This implies the notion that the total creative process is a balance of imagination and analysis.  In comparing models over different periods of time Plsek notes that older models tend to imply that creative ideas results from subconscious processes, largely outside the control of the think.  Modern models tend to imply purposeful generation of new ideas, under the direct control of the thinker.  This reflects the changing paradigms in education and society.  The implication of for education is that teachers in the 21st Century need to ensure that students are given opportunities to consider different ways of understanding and different approaches to thinking. Giving students the opportunity to think critically and creatively about human problems, issues and challenges, allowing students to develop critical thinking skills that will allow them to reconceptualise and develop new ways of thinking. Students need to have discussions and ethical and moral debates in small groups and with the whole class to explore, think to seek and find the answer to those big questions. Teachers must give students the opportunity to explore many of the fundamental questions that often cannot be seen or proven.  Pselk’s comparison reflects how mindsets have changed from fixed to growth mindsets.

Finally, Plsek identifies that the total creative process requires a drive to action and the implementation of ideas.  We do more than simply imagine new things, we must work to make them concrete realities. During this time of creation a creative being can enter a ‘transfixed’ space where time blurs into the background and ideas just intrinsically surge to realisation.  Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi (2002) refers to this experience as being “in flow”.  This describes the way that the experience seamlessly unfolds from moment to moment, and one enters a subjective state.  Poet Mark Strand articulates this cognitive process when he is experiencing flow.  “You’re right in the work, you lose your sense of time, you’re completely enraptured, you’re completely caught up in what you’re doing…there’s no future or past, it’s just an extended present in which you’re making meaning”. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997, p.121).  During this state of flow the individual operates at full capacity.  Entering flow depends on establishing a balance between perceived action capacities and perceived action opportunity.  The balance is intrinsically balanced.  

Csikszentmihalyi (2007) identifies that the dimensions of the flow experience are:

  • ·      Attention is focused on a limited stimulus field.  There is full concentration, complete involvement. 
  • ·      Action and awareness merge.
  • ·      There is freedom from worry about failure.
  • ·      Self-consciousness disappears.
  • ·      The sense of time becomes distorted.
  • ·      The experience becomes its own reward.

Teachers may feel confronted and challenged by developing their pedagogy and promoting creativity in the classroom.  It should be seen as a fun and exciting challenge and supported by a whole school approach.  Further to what previously mentioned, teachers may need to have mentors, outside professionals such as actors and artists model creative teaching and have administrators creating a feeling of ‘safety’ to experiment with the concept and be creative.  To change a school’s culture to be one that harnesses and celebrates creativity takes the entire school community.  When students can see that creativity is valued by adults then they will thrive.  As Sternberg (2003) states. “The most powerful way for teachers to develop creativity is to model creativity.  Children develop creativity not when they are told to, but when they are shown. (p.126)”  


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2012). Critical and Creative Thinking. ACARA, 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2013

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2007). Flow and Education. Retrieved 22 June 2013

Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Wolfe, R. (2005). ‘Conceptions and research approaches to creativity: Implications of a system perspective approach to creativity in education’. In K.Heller, F. Mönks, R. Sternberg, & R. Subotnik (Eds.), International handbook of giftedness and talent, 81-93. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science Ltd.

Nakamura, J. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. ‘The Concept of Flow’. In Snyder, C.R. & Lopez, S.J. (2002). Handbook of positive psychology. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press
Pslek, P. (1997) "Working Paper: Creativity Models." Working Paper: Creativity Models. Directed Creativity. Retrieved 20 June 2013. .

Pressfield, S. (2002). The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles. New York: Black Irish Entertainment

Runco, M.A. (2005). Motivation, competence, and creativity. In Elliot, A. and Dweck, C. (Eds.),  Handbook of competence and motivation, 609-623. New York: Guilford Press.

Stephen King, S. (2000).  On Writing. NY: Pocket Books.

Sternburg, R. (2003).  ‘The Development of Creativity as a Decision-Making Process’. In Sawyer, R.K., John-Steiner, V. Moran, S. Sternburg, R., Feldman, D. Nakamura, J. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (Eds.) (2003). Creativity and Development.  New York: Oxford University Press.

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