A constant struggle: navigating the psychological tensions of creative engagement

Lynch, Jennifer (2021) A constant struggle: navigating the psychological tensions of creative engagement. Doctoral thesis, University of London: London Business School.


Creativity research has found myriad antecedents of creative outcomes, from personality traits and affective states to beliefs and processes. However, we know surprisingly little about what makes someone seek out or shun creative work. Why would someone choose to engage in the creative process? Why might they opt out of creativity altogether? To understand these dynamics, I conducted a qualitative inductive study of professionals transitioning from less creative into more creative work. I developed a theory to explain the psychological tensions—the push-pull dynamics—that people experience when attempting to do something creative. The data revealed three psychological tensions associated with creative engagement that stem from the inherent uncertainty about what qualifies as a creative act, who qualifies as a creative person, and whether the creative act will succeed or fail. First, I delineate five implicit theories of creative experience and explain how each can be frustrated in different ways, with implications for voluntary turnover intentions. Then, I demonstrate how creativity functions as an unstable identity—disproportionately subject to identity threats—and outline how people can navigate these threats to develop and maintain a creative identity. Finally, I develop a theoretical model to explain how engaging in creative work entails wellbeing tensions, such that creative work holds both greater potential for psychological need fulfillment and a greater risk of psychological need frustration. I describe the practices that creative workers can employ to effectively mitigate the downsides of creative engagement while also reaping the benefits of more positive wellbeing outcomes. This study aims to expand our understanding of the experience of creative engagement and provides insights on how creativity can be psychologically challenging, yet still significantly contribute to wellbeing.

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Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subject Areas: Organisational Behaviour
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2022 16:35
Date of first compliant deposit: 11 Mar 2022
Subjects: Theses
Self-actualization (Psychology)
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 12:10
URI: https://lbsresearch.london.edu/id/eprint/2481

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