Earlier this year I was contacted by a research student at the University of East London and asked whether I would be willing to take part in current research into creativity, creative individuals and creative experiences…
I met Claire, the researcher today at the café in my local park. The cafe has outdoor seating and the weather was warm and pleasant, so we sat outside. I could look at the trees and grass as we sat and talked. She reminded me that I could do take my contribution out of the research at any point. That I my contribution would be completely anonymous.
And then the interview began.
She asked questions such as ‘what motivates you to do art? What does your creativity mean to you? What do you see when you look at your work? How do you feel when you look at your work? My answers were recorded – to be transcribed later.
I brought along a selection of photographs of my work and I spoke a bit about them. I touched on things such as my childhood creative experiences, times in my life when I had found it difficult to express myself in creative ways and how that felt, how it felt to make creative work. I spoke of how enjoyable stimulating it can be to do an art course, of how supportive it can be to be part of a creative group, what it was like preparing for an exhibition, how and when you can feel validated as an artist, what it was like to receive attention support, praise and/or pay for your work.
At the end of the interview, after she said, ‘thank you,’ she asked, ‘How long do you think that you’ve been talking for? I looked at her watch. thought that I had been speaking for about forty five minutes and that her watch agreed with me. In fact, an hour and a half had gone by.
I did find it a fun and worthwhile experience. I really felt as if I had just skimmed the surface of my own thoughts and feelings about art and that I could have said a lot more. Did I get any insights into my own practice? Well, I already knew that art is really important to me and that I’m passionate about it. But I did gain further insights. Creativity is often regarded as different or even anti- social in behaviour and attitudes. This can sometimes leave creative types feeling that they haven't got a voice or that somehow their voice is better kept hidden or quiet. Talking about it really brought home to me that sharing your creative experiences with others can bring support for your practice.
The researcher explained that she needed information to look into the psychology of creativity especially in regard to positive psychology. She offered to send me a copy of her research when it was finished. New information on the subject of creativity is of interest to any artist so… I look forward to seeing the conclusions of this research project.
Claire, the researcher, telephones one morning in the run up to Easter to firm up the day for our intended meeting and the recorded interview. ‘Hi…its…the person who’s been emailing you,‘ she says. She sounds friendly, business like, sensible.
We agree on the morning of the 15th April.
She asks whether I have any questions and I ask her how many other people have taken part so far. She gives me a figure – 18 – and explains that the research is being carried out using mixed methods. Some of the research is based on ticking boxes. However, this on its own doesn’t tell very much about the psychology of creativity. The only way to find out more is to actually get people to talk about their creative experiences. She has chosen a range of people to take part. Not only working and non working artists, but also people who do creative activities out of interest, and people involved in creative activities in community projects in order to get a range of creative experiences.
She also reassures me that because names will be changed when the material is transcribed, those taking part can speak in complete confidence. This means having the freedom to speak freely about creative experiences, as much as I want, for as long as I want. Most people, she says, because they have to think about it, gain an insight into their own creativity and practice.
We agree that I will send more detail about the location for our meeting to her via email. How will she get there? She has a driver, she says, who drives her everywhere. I have to say that I’m intrigued.
The holiday season is here. For me, this means spending time with family and friends. If you happen to be reading this in the holiday season then, I hope that you are enjoying a time of peace and relaxation. I also hope that you’re working on something creative and that it’s going well.
The days for our suggested meeting have passed so I email again, confirming that I’m open to the experience, I’ll be available after the holidays. I give her the option of emailing or calling me to set a date for after the 14th April and say that mornings or afternoons are best.
Over the next few days, I re-read the guidelines for participants and the terms of the interview. The guidelines give a bit more information about the topics that I might be asked to talk about. The research is about exploring the individual’s creativity, their beliefs, capabilities, their creative activity and experiences and what this means for them. According to the guidelines, I’m allowed to talk to others about the research process if I want – that’s good. And if there’s any topic that I’ feel would be harmful for me to talk about any point, I should let the researcher know – ok. I can ask questions about the research into creativity – they will try and answer them. Great.
And those taking part can withdraw from the study at any time, even after the recorded interview…
I get a further email from Claire, the researcher. She writes that she appreciates that I’m willing to take part in the research into creativity. She says that she has conducted interviews like this before. She gives some further guidelines for the place where the research interview should happen. It should be a semi private place, local to me. It can be in a place like a café or a pub or an arts centre. The venue for the interview also needs to be at ground level and ideally have no steps. If I cannot think of anywhere, she will find somewhere like that for us to meet. But now that I know what’s required I find that I can think of some places that might be suitable. I mull over the available options. Ideas that come to mind include:
a) a local gallery hosted by artists-run group, Brent Artists Resource. This has the advantage of being a kind of creative backdrop to the recorded interview. This would be quiet, but would require some telephone calls asking for favours. There’s no guarantee of privacy or of even being able to use the space for this purpose on the day.
b) a café in a local supermarket. Might be private enough but a bit noisy.
c) a local pub. Has the added bonus of the option of sitting inside or out. Never been there before. Not sure about the situation with the steps.
d) a café in a local park. Been there before. Closer to home than the other three options. Nice views – picturesque. Also, if the café itself is not very private or quiet we could find a park bench or a bit of grass on which to sit.
After talking it over with the family, decide on the café in the local park, Queens Park. I email her suggesting this as the venue and a time in the morning for two days this week. I want us to miss the lunch hour rush as I know that it can be busy. I give this info as a starter to negotiating a mutually convenient time and date.
I also suggest a good time for when she can telephone me over the weekend to confirm. But the weekend passes. No phone call. No email. Perhaps she’s busy with her own family matters and so on. Perhaps she hasn’t seen the email. Somehow I get the impression that the interview won’t take place before Easter now, but that’s ok. She’s already said that it needs to be before the end of April. I like the fact that she doesn’t want to hassle me over the telephone. I feel we’ll meet up soon enough.