Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Origins of the Creative Flow State (VIDEO)

In his classic New Yorker article published in 2000, The Art of Failure, Malcolm Gladwell made the distinction between "choking" and "panicking"  He emphasized the notion that choking is the act of thinking too much, while panicking is thinking too little. Obviously, neither act is conducive to peak performance, success or excellence.

Perhaps, the probability of choking is increased by overpreparation, while the probability of panicking is increased by the lack of preparation.  It could also arise from fear produced by the emerging awareness of the lack of preparation or the perception of threat or failure based on a lack of preparation.

Freestyle is a style of rap, with instrumental beats, in which rap lyrics are improvised,  i.e. performed with no previously composed lyrics, or "off the top of the head".  The improvisational nature of freestyle is similar to that of jazz.  This quality is likely to create the the impression in many people that there is not considerable preparation or discipline involved.

Relatedly, Allen Braun, the chief of the language section of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), said that the same cognitive functions displayed during freestyle rap are used by athletes.

”If an athlete starts paying attention to what they’re doing, how they’re going to move their body to catch a ball, they’ll clutch and they won’t do it.”

He is not wrong; however, there is more to freestyle than meets the eye.  The ability to improvise is based on extreme amounts of practice, intense preparation, and even a great deal of study and analysis.  The skill of improvisation could not be mastered without hours of trial and error, practice, and diligent rehearsal.  At that point, effective improvisation can occur.

Similarly, only through this preparation can athletes perform and improvise as the situations evolve on the field, court, or track.

Many creative endeavors are mistakenly seen as simple acts of expression or manifestations of raw talent that need very little cultivation or development.  In fact, the opposite is true.

The creative process involved in freestyle is crucial for successful rapping. The creative process requires a state of consciousness where we experience a task so deeply that it truly becomes enjoyable and satisfying.  Excellence and success in rapping is often a result of Flow or the Flow State, first identified and popularized by the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  He is the universally hailed as the father of Flow and after decades of researching the characteristics of the “optimal experience”  he wrote Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience.  Freestyle is a great example of importance of Flow as an ingredient for success.

The popular rapper, Eminem,  brought freestyle to the masses in the film "8-Mile,"  Eminem, along with Lil' Wayne, is considered by many to be the pre-eminent freestyle rapper today.  In an interview above, Eminem, displays the deep understanding and passion, the spontaneity, and the raw emotion that are the foundation of improvisation.  Here he describes his history and approach to freestyle.  As the interview evolves, he mentions several important key elements in development of his particular style and his ability to improvise.  These elements have important implications in their application to any performance situation or opportunity.  These elements also are a source of creativity.  

  • Initial failure, disappointment and/or rejection.
  • A period of disenchantment or quitting the activity altogether.
  • Re-emergence from failure or quitting.
  • Re-dedication or obsession with activity
  • Motivation and challenge of "figuring out the puzzle."  
  • Strong need to study, study, study (mastery of the craft through practice and analysis).
  • Appreciation of those who have gone before him.  
  • Discovery that this is "what I want to do with my life."
  • Activity provides individual a source of strength, a voice, emotional outlet, or a means of expression.
  • Provides a sense of belonging, teamwork, and/or comraderie (though, it can be an extremely solitary endeavor at times).     

It is clear that the seminal experiences that Eminem described were the necessary ingredients for him to learn his craft, ultimately, perform at a high level and receive the critical and popular acclaim that he has received in the past decade.  Thus, successful improvisation and creativity are products of hours and hours of intense and focused preparation.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/458510/rappers-brain-in-flow-researchers-study-science-of-creativity-by-watching-freestyle-rap/#FFl7WvrDpsVom5D1.99

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