We all have our own unique creative process and what works for one person may not work for others. However, there has been much research on a basic formula for the creative process, which has four recognized stages; preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. I’ve never conventionally thought about explaining my creative process until recently and I wanted to be able to put it into more conventional terms.
I’m currently working on writing a romance novel that I had started a few years ago, which I recently mentioned returning to working on in my blog post, Living With Intention: Creating with Purpose. In that blog post, I talked about showing up with intention as one of the biggest challenges one faces in the creative process. This is the same for all creatives whether it’s showing up consistently on your blog, writing a book, or illustrating a masterpiece.
In my answers to The Sunshine Bloggers Award questions, I gave a small glimpse into my creative process. For me, I never find myself at a lack of inspiration. Frequently it’s the opposite, I find that my inspiration and creative energies are in overdrive. I’ve learned the importance of recording my thoughts out of fear that I’ll forget and the moment of inspiration will be but a fleeting thought. My top five favorite tools for keeping track of my thoughts and sources of inspiration are:
- The Notes App on my iPhone to record a running list of ideas for upcoming projects or projects I’m currently working on. For example, I’ve been toying around with the idea of starting a Podcast and I know the concept of what I want it to be about. However, I have yet to find “the” title. I’ve had a few close friends that I’ve been bouncing around ideas with and a few that I’ve randomly thought of when out and about. The entire list remains in my notes which I make sure to back up from my phone daily.
- Pinterest, to be fair this should probably be listed as number 1 as it is like an extension of my creative process from start to finish. I frequently pin images, quotes, writing prompts, books, etc that inspire me. I’m constantly going back to my pins as a starting point for generating my thoughts and ideas around things that light me up from the inside out. Not to mention, I try to pin images from my blog posts and products that I sell on Redbubble, which I mentioned in my blog post Once Upon Mermaid’s Starry Night.
- Pocket a reading app, which is available free for the both the iPhone and Android, as well as an extension for Google Chrome. I use it to add research articles, and blog posts that I’m using as research for blog posts, new foods/services I’d like to try, and writing tips (the list could go on). In my opinion, the best part about the app is that I can have it read out loud to me as I’m getting around in the morning or on my commute to work.
- Google Docs which I use to write from my laptop and take with me on the go, not to mention the ability to easily share with others (while still keeping control of their ability to edit).
- Google Drive for my ability to save and take my files with me on the go (whether it’s writing projects, art, or something for work).
- Instagram is a great source for gathering inspiration, connecting with others with similar interests, and networking.
Preparation: Identifying your topic/idea and collecting facts and tools to start your project.
Personally, in this stage, I’m usually gathering my research. For example, for the romance novel that I’m writing, I researched the area in which it takes place. I wanted to get a feel for the climate, community, and traditions of the area. Right now, I’m watching a few movies (based on romance novels) that are in line with the plot of the book. In this stage, I’m familiarizing myself with the topic and looking at the subject from multiple perspectives for a well-rounded understanding. I’m actively formulating a plan, writing notes, outlines, and identifying possible references/resources.
Incubation: This phase is known as the phase in which you step away from your plans and reflect. Research has shown doing so intensifies your opportunity for increased creativity.
OMG (and here’s a prime example of an Illumination moment) as I wrote that last line I couldn’t help thinking, “Wow, maybe this is why my brain is frequently on creative overload.” I frequently conduct the preparation phase in small increments, then jump straight into incubation as I head off to do something else. I generally end up casually reflecting on the prep. I was working on as I’m having a conversation with someone, reading, playing a game, watching a movie, etc.
Illumination: Is essentially the OMG moment when the light bulb flashes to full intensity and you have to take action.
Honestly, for me, it’s listening to that gut feeling that hits you and you just know it in your heart of hearts that this is it. I feel like these moments come much easier to me when I’m actively practicing self-awareness, yoga, journaling, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting adequate sleep. Afterall, regularly practicing self-love and compassion to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle helps promote mental clarity and creativity. I find when I’ve been pushing myself too hard and not allowing for adequate rest mentally, physically, and emotionally, I need to reset and recharge. When I’m depleted is when I’m tempted to chalk it up to writers or a creative block. However, if I’m honest with myself and listen to my body, it’s because I’m tired and I need to allow my body and mind time to recharge.
Verification: At last, it’s time to test the waters and put your plan into action. It’s time to craft your masterpiece.
Usually, at this point in the game, I’m eager and excited to share my masterpiece with someone. This is when I’ve reached my final project and I’m ready to share it with the world with the hope to connect with and inspire others.
I hope you find this helpful and I’ll leave you with a few amazing takeaways that I stumbled upon in my preparation phase for helping me break down my creative process.
- Breaks down the creative process from a psychological understanding of the brain.
- Looks at individual and collaborative viewpoints of the creative thinking process.
- Talks about all “original” ideas are not necessarily original in the aspect that all our ideas are influenced by something.
- The video talks about another phase called transforming, which is something I use a lot in my artwork. When I’m in the preparation phase for starting a new illustration I look through tons of related images from other artists. It helps me build a concept model that transcends my own limited experiences and perspectives. It transforms my unique perspective of these art styles melding them all into a new work of art.
A short video that plays off the concept of the last video and discusses the idea that all people have the ability for thinking creatively.
The Creative Process in 10 Stages
- The Hunch: taking an idea and being willing to take a risk by acting on it.
- Talking About It: share your ideas and your process with friends, family, and your community. They are going to be the biggest supporters on your creative journey.
- The Sponge: You’re surrounding yourself with already existing works around your idea (movies, books, networking through social media, Pinterest, blog posts….my favorite part).
- Build: You’re putting your ideas into motion formulating your plan (editing, collaborating, making vision boards, rough sketches, experimenting with multiple perspectives surrounding your idea).
- Confusion: The stage when your inner critic comes out with self-doubt, fear, and panic.
- Step Away From the Project: Back to the phase of incubation. You’re giving your mind time to unconsciously think and play with your ideas without pressure.
- The Love Sandwich: First ask what works for you, then what doesn’t work for you, followed by what works for you. Constructive feedback with love and consideration (as Elle Woods would say warm fuzzies from the snap cup).
- The Premature Breakthroughlation: Celebrating all the little successes that lead to the grand finale.
- Revisit Your Notes: This is a step that I’m constantly doing. There are so many great tools to help you do this in your own style, whether it’s creating a vision board, keeping a journal/bullet journal, notebook, or using a variety of apps to sort out all your thoughts and ideas.
- Knowing When You’re Done: You’ve hit the ball out of the park and reached the grand finale. It’s a great feeling, celebrate! Share your excitement and sense of accomplishment with your friends, family, and community!