Redefining the muse: self-regulatory aspects of creative behavior

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Date

2002

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Way, Pamela Jo

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Several terms and phrases, such as “persistence,” “ability to stay on task,” and “perseverance in the face of difficulties” are often used to describe successful students. Research in academics repeatedly suggests that students who engage in appropriate self-regulatory strategies tend to be successful students in terms of both grades and learning (Zimmerman, 1989). Most importantly, however, these students are able to persist with current tasks even in the face of competing demands or attractive alternatives. Interestingly, researchers investigating creativity use these same terms and phrases to describe the personality structure of artists (Cropley, 1990; Radford & Burton, 1974). But, although both students and artists seem to possess similar abilities and skills that aid them in the attainment of a goal, researchers have neglected to investigate the specific role self-regulatory abilities and strategies might play in creative output. The purpose of this dissertation, therefore, was to explore self-regulatory skills and abilities used by professional visual artists in the creation of their particular product, whether that product is a painting, a print, a sculpture, or other object. This dissertation study utilized a mixed methodology, as data were collected through interviews and surveys, as well as through established, quantitatively based instruments. Grounded theory methodology was used to interpret the qualitative data, while traditional quantitative techniques were used to interpret quantitative data. Results suggest that artists do successfully engage in a variety of self-regulatory techniques. These strategies are typically directed towards maintaining the work process, and include motivational strategies (the use of rewards, for example), emotional strategies (e.g., working through a “blue” mood to maintain focus on their work), cognitive strategies (e.g., telling themselves to just “take one small step at a time” when frustrated with the work process), and behavioral strategies (e.g., simply buckling down to the task when necessary). Although the strategies engaged by artists are similar to the strategies engaged by students, the results also suggest that there is a need to explore self-regulatory strategy use in diverse situations and in diverse populations.

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