Brendan McCormack, who has worked with us to co-design the Queen’s Nurse programme, shares a new resource on critical creativity and explains why deep reflection is even more important during the current pandemic. (Picture by Lesley Martin)
At the time of writing this blog we are in the middle of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. A time when everything we thought to be stable in our lives is being destabilised and the foundations of everyday living are being challenged – for how long, we have no idea, but at times it is hard to see beyond the current crisis! In the midst of sorting out student placements and changes to how student learning will be supported during the crisis as well as supporting nearly 70 staff to adjust to home working – with all the loss of social contact that this brings, writing this blog brings a short period of respite. Of course, writing a blog about critical creativity might seem superfluous and irrelevant during a time like this, but I would argue the opposite – at no time is creativity needed more than at a time like this. Our tendency is to batten down the hatches and hang on for dear life to our well-known and well-trodden solutions that didn’t serve us very well in a non-crisis period and which are hardly likely to do so in a time like this!
Whilst critical creativity was not born out of such an acute crisis as the one we are in now, it did come from a crisis in confidence that we experienced in what we were engaged in as action-oriented researchers and practice developers. Not so much a loss of confidence in the practices we were engaged in, but more to do with the methodological frameworks that supported and informed these practices. Angie Titchen and I have been collaborators for 29 years and from the get-go we ‘fed’ off each other’s creative potential. We recognised that when we engaged creatively with each other, with the practitioners with whom we were doing research and practice development and with students we were facilitating, that a kind of magic happened. A magic that somehow seemed to ‘cut through’ norms and took us into places that we came to describe as the ‘yet to be known’. Locating these new knowings in established epistemological and methodological frameworks seemed to limit the potential of our engagements and the new learning that was emerging. Together and with others in a collaborative inquiry called ‘Seizing the Fire’, we worked to understand how we could bring creative imagination and expression into our workplaces. We engaged the international collaborative community we were then part of (The International Practice Development Community) in a series of creative collaborative inquiries to further explore this thinking and embodied knowing. These activities gave birth to the beginnings of ‘critical creativity’ and everything that has happened since then.
However, this has not been an easy journey. We initially presented our ideas at the Royal College of Nursing International Nursing Research Conference and received universal negative critique! This led us to give a series of conference presentations variously titled, but all containing a Haiku we wrote called ‘Alone on the Edge: critical creativity’, reflecting the methodological isolation we experienced because we were challenging established (research) norms. It didn’t deter us however (quite the opposite), but instead spurred us on to do systematic scholarly work to clearly articulate our ontological, epistemological and methodological intentions to show how we were drawing upon and building on the critical paradigm through the lens of creativity; demonstrating how meaningful, intentional and embodied creative practices had the potential to generate new knowledge that was embedded in everyday reality – truly holistic knowing. This led to significant positive feedback and responses and the paradigm of Critical Creativity was born!
In the FREE e-book ‘Dancing the Mandalas of Critical Creativity in Nursing and Healthcare’ https://www.cpcpr.org/critical-creativity Angie and I have brought together the work we have been engaged in for 29 years articulating the philosophy, theory, methodology and methods of critical creativity. We did this because we found over the years that many people who wanted to engage in the work found it difficult to find their ‘starting point’. So we have organised the book in such a way that enables the reader to enter it at the point that makes most sense for you – be it to dive straight into the sea of philosophy and theory or dip your toes into the pond of methods that could cause a shift in your practice. The work includes scholarly writing that we know can seem impenetrable when first approached but which we hope is helped by a number of embedded outputs (stories, video diaries, poems, PowerPoint slides and reflections) that help you find your own way into the text and extract what is most meaningful for you/your work. A lot of the content has been published previously as papers and book chapters and we have referenced them accordingly.
Overall, our greatest hope is that more and more everyday practitioners will discover their own creativity, be able to legitimize it as ‘proper practice’ and discover the power of such embodied and creative knowing in transforming individuals, teams and communities. So, at this time of a pandemic, I encourage you to embrace your creative knowing, maximise your potential for stillness and deep reflection and embrace the loving kindness that is our embodied wisdom.