Flow, resistance and thinking : a phenomenological study of creativity

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Creativity has been identified as an ambiguous and paradoxical phenomenon to research, leading to both generalities and discrepancies concerning its nature, producing definitions and models that frequently do not encompass creativity’s complex qualities. It has been suggested that, rather than seeking to explain and reduce this complexity, research should make creativity more intelligible; that is should use creative methods that can generate rich, fruitful data that promotes new understandings rather than new theories. Finding new understandings of the creativity phenomenon by questioning some assumptions of the established theories is the overall objective of this study, itself located in the field of the cognitive processing of information at both the conscious and subconscious levels. The particular focus of the study is this ambiguous, seemingly contradictory process of creative thinking. Creative thinking has been characterized by existing research as a spontaneous, flowing process but also an unpredictable, resisting one, so the aim was to explore the tension and interplay of these two processes, in order to understand their relationship. Established research asserts both characteristics are present – this is part of the paradox - but does not clarify their relationship. To explore flow and resistance in creative thinking, creativity is investigated as a lived experience; the research questions ask: What is the experience of being creative? And how does creativity emerge? using existential phenomenology as methodology. Visual thinking, using freehand experiential drawing, is the technique used to elicit participant responses; data collection methods include field notes and interviews. The fieldwork comprised two workshops followed by a semi-structured interview. The lived experience of individuals wanting to explore their own potentiality through creative expression provided the experiential material for analysis. Participants were adults without training or specialized knowledge in creative practice. As a result, this study deepens existing research by elucidating the paradox of flow and resistance. In doing so, it provides more nuanced understandings of creativity’s process and characterisation and some insights into how new ideas emerge and the conditions required for their emergence. However, the key findings are that it proposes an alternative approach to problem-centred cognitive theories and raises questions about the prevalence of routinised practices in information processing and their effect on the generation of new ideas.
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