Creative Habits and Reflective Practice

Table of Contents

Creative Habits and Reflective Practice
1. Prepare yourself for participation
2. Framework I: Processes of Research and Engagement
3. Framework II. Action Research Cycles and Epicycles
4. Key Process I. Dialogue Around Written Work
5. Key Process II. Making Space for Taking Initiative In and Through Relationships
6. Framework III. Synthesis of Theory and Practice
7. Key Process III. Taking Stock at the end of phase, activity, project...
led by
Peter Taylor
Critical & Creative Thinking graduate Program & Science in a Changing World graduate track
personal website: (with links to blogs, etc.)
key sources:

Overall goal of session: To promote group and personal practices that catalyze, facilitate, and support your efforts to take initiative and generate creative, constructive change in and through your research.

Audio of parts 1d through 3:


1. Prepare yourself for participation

a. Guided freewriting: Continue for 7 minutes where this sentence leaves off (writing in whatever language your prefer): "When I think about being 'creative' or 'innovative' in my research, the thoughts, experiences, and feelings that come to mind include..."


Freewriting is a technique that helps you clear mental space so that thoughts about an issue in question can emerge that had been below the surface of your attention—insights that you were not able, at first, to acknowledge. (Supportive Listening is another means to that end.) Elbow (1981) places Freewriting on the creative side of the necessary interplay of the creative and the critical in thinking and writing. You may wish to make Freewriting a start-of-the-day habit to warm up your research and writing.

In a Freewriting exercise, you should not take your pen off the paper. Keep writing even if you find yourself stating over and over again, "I don't know what to say." What you write will not be seen by anyone else, so do not go back to tidy up sentences, grammar, or spelling. In a guided freewriting exercise, you continue from where a sentence provided by the session facilitator leaves off (examples below). You will probably diverge from the topic, at least for a time, while you acknowledge other preoccupations. That is OK—indeed, it is another purpose of the exercise. However, if you keep writing for seven to ten minutes, you should expose some thoughts about the topic that had been below the surface of your attention.

At the start of a project
  • "I would like my work on [topic X] to influence [group Y] to make changes in [situation Z]..."
  • "I often/sometimes have trouble getting going until..."
  • "The differences between investigating ... and investigating... might be that..."
  • "There are so many aspects to my topic. I could look at... and..."
  • "If I were given more background in how to analyze..., I would be better able to..."
  • "From my past experience, the kinds of issues or aspects of research I tend to overlook or discount include..."

Early on in a project
  • "When I think about sharing my incomplete work, what comes up is... And this means I should....."
  • "It may be very premature to lay out the arguments involved in my research, but it may help me define where I am going, so let me try..."
  • "Incorporating regular freewriting into my research practice is (difficult? wonderful? a not-yet-achieved ideal?)..."
  • "In the next two months what I most want to see happening in my project is... What is blocking me realizing this vision is..."
  • "Usually when I try to plan my work, what happens is.."
  • "Some aspect of research I would like to be able to explain clearly for my project is..."
  • "If I had to state a question that keeps my subject, audience and purpose most clearly in focus, I would say..."

When you begin to draft a report
  • "My ideal report would lead readers to see... I would grab their attention by... and lead them through a series of steps, namely..."


Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with Power. New York: Oxford University Press.

b. Compose one statement or question about fostering creativity and innovation in research.
c. Turn to a neighbour; discuss what you have written in b (not in a. freewriting).
d. Share some of these with the whole group.

2. Framework I: Processes of Research and Engagement

10 Phases

Examples of tools and processes
A. Freewriting
B. Sense-making digestion of readings
C. Mapping
E. Strategic Personal Planning
F. Narrative Outline
G. Work In Progress Presentation
H. Varieties of Feedback
J. Self-assessment at the end

3. Framework II. Action Research Cycles and Epicycles

4. Key Process I. Dialogue Around Written Work

5. Key Process II. Making Space for Taking Initiative In and Through Relationships

6. Framework III. Synthesis of Theory and Practice

Daily Writing

A practice of writing text related to your project 15-30 minutes five to seven days per week (Boice 1990, Gray n.d.). Log time spent and new words written, and, at the end of each session, note possible topics for future Daily Writing. New words is important—editing, revising, and filling in citations can be done at another time in the day. Indeed, daily writing should lead to a release of energy for other research and writing work entailed by your project.

Start Daily Writing at the very start of your project. The words you write need not ever end up in the final written product, so it does not matter if your project is unclear at the start and changes as you go on. Note, however, that Daily Writing differs from Freewriting or Cameron's (2002) "Morning Pages." Your Daily Writing words should be expository, composed as if you are presenting some points to an audience.


Cameron, J. (2002). The Artist's Way. New York: Tarcher.
Gray, T. n.d. Publish and flourish. (viewed 8 July 2011)
Boice, R. (1990). Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.
Writing Workshop

Issue: What support should I arrange to help me to develop creative habits and to build a tool kit of processes for research and engagement?

7. Key Process III. Taking Stock at the end of phase, activity, project...

Plus-Delta feedback
submit on paper OR via
One thing I appreciated about the session…
One thing that could be developed further…
Having the time to share with colleagues the difficulties we share when we deal with the double “task” of being creative and being “disciplinary.”
Having the opportunity to be aware of what important aspects of my research I am not taking myself seriously, and how I could do that.
To talk more personally about how we manage our responsibilities in the areas to the left.
Interactive sections, especially the dialogue half-hour at the end
More time to discuss the stages of research so some things would have been more clear and covered with more details

Exploration of new forms of representation, not only written. Use new tools and support for working in future experiences.
Stimulation to think, to be creative
More exercise time for “learning by doing”
Workshop using the cards to take turns so we understand the opinions and thinking of the other people
Importance of removing pain
The difficulties of keeping up a daily habit
Useful, informative, opened new perspectives, gave many clues for our work: …, methods, reflections
Nothing (only my deficiencies in the English language)
I firmly believe that this kind of seminars are very important to the development of a reflection about our own habits and ways of work.
Important points that some of us never think about were shared in the very nice last exercise [dialogue half-hour]
Allowed for fruitful discussion on methodology and methods (techniques)
We needed more time for this
Gave me lots of thoughts on what is innovation.
Look more at the area of innovation.
Gave me insights and concrete ideas for me to reflect on my personal difficulties “showing up for my job.”
Supported my reflection on strategies to engage with different knowledges and enrich the possibilities of my project.