I read an interesting article in The Atlantic last week, and it got me thinking about my creative process and the creative process in general.
Then one of our Facebook friends was talking about how he didn’t understand how anyone could work before 8 am and that was why IT people weren’t creative. I had to disagree.
Every job, no matter the industry, takes some level of creativity.
Once your problem has been clearly defined, the following are the stages of the creative process that can apply to literally any role:
Step One: Saturation
For me, this step is research. If I’m going to write about the creative process, I need to determine what has already been written about the topic? I have to immerse myself as much as possible in what is already out there, partly to avoid being obvious and derivative, but mostly to make sure I know what I’m talking about and that the conclusions I will draw are my own.
For a Web Designer, this could mean looking at a lot of websites in the same industry as the client for whom they are planning.
For an Application Developer working on a new app, it could be making sure they are familiar with the apps that already exist to accomplish similar tasks.
Step Two: Incubation
Sometimes this seems like procrastination – and it is hard to do this step properly because of that. You want to be working on the project, but it’s hard to get down to it. Maybe you haven’t let it grow in your mind—even in your subconscious—long enough yet.
A lot of people do some physical activity to help their incubation process. I like to knit or read fiction. Sometimes even clean the house or do laundry! Walk away from the project and let it grow on its own.
When I’m writing a blog (like now!), by the time I reach this stage I have an outline, sometimes even only a title and the background information, and I go do something else for a while. It is incredibly easier to write after the time away. I’m always surprised, but it always works.
Step Three: Illumination
The solution often comes to you while you’re thinking about something else or doing some other activity. Most creative people would think of this as the moment when creative thought is really going on—when they get that brilliant idea. But creativity is going on all the time or you would never get here.
Many people think they are not creative because they never have this experience in their day-to-day lives, but it is more likely that they are not allowing the process to take place!
Step Four: Verification
After those moments of illumination, creative people rush back to their workspace and get to it. It is always very exciting at this stage. An artist gets focused on work until it is as perfect as possible. A musician will practice until they can interpret a piece exactly the way it sounds in his or her mind. A Web Designer will tweak a site for hours until it is clean and user-friendly. They “make it work,” as Tim Gunn would say.
This is the satisfying part of the creative process: when you are making something unique, putting your own spin on something you understand thoroughly, expressing yourself as only you can do.
Every time we have a problem to solve, whether it is a personnel issue for an HR professional, a difficult passage of Mozart, a perfect seasonal design for a website, or even a blog post to write, we are engaging in creativity.
Isn’t it nice to know a way to get there every time?
Wendy Stackhouse, for Artisan Creative