“…idea generation occurs by trial and error and, consequently, attempts at idea generation are often unsuccessful”


When trying to generate a creative idea, one might make an association that has already been considered (lacks novelty),  does not appropriately address the problem (lacks usefulness), or one can fail to form an association altogether.  Failed idea associations are extremely common during the creative process. They lead to difficulty in getting the creative process started and difficulty in keeping the process going once started. 

A second attribute of creative thought that leads creativity to feel disfluent is that people have limited awareness of when they are making progress toward a solution.  In less creative tasks, people track their progress toward a solution by applying known steps, rules, and procedures.

In contrast, in creative tasks people utilize associative thinking, drawing on loose cognitive associations between idea elements. These associations are combined, discarded, and recombined until a creative idea emerges.  The associative and iterative nature of this process makes it difficult to determine whether one is nearing a creative solution.

For instance, in one study, people solving math problems (an uncreative task) were able to verbalize their progress and could anticipate when they were getting close to a solution. However, people solving creative insight problems had little awareness of their progress and were unable to verbalize their progress until directly before they generated a solution. This helps explain why creative solutions are sometimes experienced as unexpected “moments of insight”


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