The 4 Steps of the Creative Process
BY CHARLIE GILKEY
“I’m not creative.”
“I wish I could be more creative, but I don’t have it in me.”
“Why are some people creative and others aren’t?”
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard those statements or questions…
The truth is that almost everyone has creative potential. What separates good creatives (or dormant creatives who get lucky) is that they’ve learned how to walk through the creative process.
The irony is that most of them don’t know that there is a documented process, yet they’ve developed habits that allow them to walk through it. On some brute level, they understand the process, though they don’t know how it works.
A large part of the problem is that there is an air of mystery and mysticism around the creative process. Because people assume and reinforce the idea that some people have creative potential and others don’t, those who do harness their potential and work through the process become all the more “different.” And because so few of us see that leveraging our creativity is inextricably linked to how we make money, we let our creative process devolve into a daily crapshoot.
So, let’s take a few minutes and demystify the creative process.
The Four Steps of Creativity
We’ve known for a long time that the creative process can be broken down into four distinct processes, most of which can be fostered and augmented. The processes are:
I’ll spend some time on each step.
This is the first phase, which most people call “work.” A writer, for example, prepares by writing, by reading, or by revising earlier work. A musician plays scales, chords, or songs; a painter messes with paints or visits an art gallery; an entrepreneur researches problems to solve; a programmer plays with code. In each example, the creative is going through relatively mundane processes.
The reason I say most people call this phase “work” is that these processes may or may not be inherently enjoyable. They’re also fairly mundane and tedious, but the creative has learned that this process is necessary to plant the seeds that lead to…
This would be the mystical process, if there were one, because you often don’t know that you’re incubating an idea, or if you do know you’re working on one, you don’t know when it’s going to come out. It’s during this phase that your conscious and subconscious minds are working on the idea, making new connections, separating out unnecessary ideas, and grabbing for other ideas.
This is the phase that most people mess up the most with distractions and the hustle and bustle of daily lives. Modern life, with its many beeps, buzzes, and distractions, has the strong tendency to grab the attention of both our subconscious and our unconscious mind, and as result, the creative process stops and is instead replaced by more immediate concerns.
However, from this phase comes…
This is the “Eureka” moment that many of us spend our days questing after. When it hits, the creative urge is so incredibly strong that we lose track of what else is happening. The driving impulse is to get whatever is going on in our heads down into whatever medium it’s intended for.
The most frustrating thing for me is that the “illumination” moments happen at the most inopportune times. They invariably happen when I’m in the shower, when I’m driving by myself, when I’m working out, or when I’m sitting in mind-numbing meetings that I can’t get out of. Of course, the bad part is as I said above: the impulse is to get the idea out as soon as possible, so it’s not at all uncommon for me to stop showering, driving, or working out and run to the nearest notepad – and, in meetings, I start purging immediately anyway. I’ve yet to gain enough clout to excuse myself from the meetings, but I’m working on it.
I was speaking to a friend a few weeks ago, and I told her I was frustrated because I was pregnant with ideas and didn’t have time to get them out. Keeping with the analogy, when a Eureka! moment hits, it’s much like labor – you’re done with incubating, and it’s time for…
This phase is the one in which the idea you’ve been preparing and incubating sees the light of day. It’s when that written piece comes out, when that song flows, when that canvas reveals its painting, and so on. It’s also when a good creative starts to evaluate the idea and determine whether it’s good or not – but only after they have enough to see where it’s going.
Most of the creatives I know or work with get really frustrated with others during this phase. Other people only see the creation at the end, and they don’t recognize or care much about the process that generated that idea. This is especially true with some supervisors and bosses who expect the end product on a certain schedule, even though the creative process does not work that way. Creatives know that for every good idea, there are at least a few that don’t work out, but they can’t know ahead of time what’s going to work out and what won’t.
The creative process begins with work and ends with work. The take-away point here is that creativity is not just percolating and Eureka: it’s percolating and Eureka sandwiched between work phases.
If you want to read the full article, click on this link: http://www.productiveflourishing.com/demystifying-the-creative-process/