Be Unstoppable
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The Five Phases of the Creative Process

If you want be unstoppable, you have to understand the creative process. By knowing where you are in the cycle, you reduce unrealistic expectations and the possibility of getting blocked.

the creative processThe Creative Process

Ever been lost or confused on a road trip? It’s scary and we usually experience a moment of panic.

Ever consulted those maps in a mall? You first have to locate the “You are here” point before any of it makes sense.

The same is true for a creative journey. To help, I’ve identified certain milestones in the process that tell me “You are here”.

I see them as a circle because each leads to the next. I often have concurrent projects going on but I may be in a different part of the process with each one. It helps to have a map.


This part of the creative process means I’m on the lookout for inspiration and new ideas. It can come from anywhere so I try to keep my focus wide and pay attention to what crosses my path. It might be Pinterest or something a friend says. I might be inspired by the background of a movie or a photo I take while walking the dog.

What I’m looking for is that spark of inspiration. Sometimes the fire lights immediately but usually it smolders awhile. I write it down in my bullet journal while knowing not every spark needs to be fanned into a flame.


I know I’m ready for the next step in the creative process when an idea won’t let me go. Now it’s time to play with my idea. Sketches, doodles or writing about it in my journal. I’m looking for my starting point and at least a general direction. If it’s writing related this is the time to research.

I consider this play time. The idea doesn’t have to be anything yet so it’s certainly not a time to share it. Rather, this is when I gather steam and build up some creative pressure.

I’ve discovered that when creatives talk about what we plan to do too early in the process, our brain often marks it as ‘Done’ and we don’t take it to the next step. Worse, when we share it with the wrong people, the idea gets criticized and it dies before it ever sees the light.


Almost there

The actual work happens in this step of the creative process. While the whole cycle is crucial, this step is what most of us consider the act of creation. Like a child, it has it’s difficult phases but it also holds promise so be patient and let it develop.

Think of it like running a race. The beginning is fun because you’re fresh and anything is possible. The end is great because everyone crowds around the finish line, cheering you on.

The tough part exists in the middle when you are on your own, tired and filled with self-doubt. Recognizing the ‘middles’ allows you to change up your self talk to encourage rather than quit.


This part of the creative process is the whole point!

We create in order to communicate. The right time to share is when your work feels done (or at least complete for now).

Put it out there. Show it off. Be proud of what you’ve done! Too many people never get this far.


The final step in the creative process has two elements, the reaction of others and your own learning.

It’s important to keep in mind that once make your work public, it doesn’t belong to just you any longer. One of the difficult things we have to learn as creatives is that we don’t control other people’s reactions to our creations. They view it through their own life lens, not ours and you may never know the reason they love it or hate it. Simply trust that your work will find those it speaks to.

This is also time for you to do a personal evaluation.

  • Did you achieve what you wanted?
  • What did you learn?
  • What would you repeat?
  • What would you do differently?

Dig deep and learn. The formula for success is “Try. Learn. Adjust. Try again.”

Which brings us full circle back to the first step in the Creative Process because you’re ready for the next great idea to come across your path.

Share with me in the comments what you think. Does this sound like your process? What would you add or take away? I’d love to hear from you!

12 thoughts on “The Five Phases of the Creative Process”

  1. I don’t really follow a specific process, but loved how your’s works! It makes total sense! I’ going to try to apply it on my creative routines! Thanks for sharing! ?

    1. I feel like I’m all over the place some days but when I check in, I can see where I am in this process. It helps me a lot. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I so agree with this. It’s so hard to complete all these steps while working a full-time job. Hopefully, some time off this summer will give me the incubation time I need.

    1. I wish this for you, too. I think the incubation takes the most time but you can be feeding your imagination in the meantime. Leaf through magazines and tear out anything that appeals to you. Colours, phrases, images. Keep them in a file or a box. You’ll start to notice connections and themes that can help when you’re looking for that spark!

  3. I love this! It seems like it would make overcoming overwhelm so much easier being able to “check in” and notice what step you’re on in each project.

    1. Exactly! Once I identified my process, I knew when I was trying to ‘push the river’. It certainly helped me be more patient with myself and what I was trying to accomplish. It also helped me know when to share and when that would sabotage my creativity. Thanks for connecting and the kind words.

  4. Fabulous post on the creative process. My creative process mirrors yours in many ways. I can get stuck in the incubation process. I love input! And I love implementation. I could spend more time in the Illumination phase as I feel this is where true mastery of our process comes from. It reminds me to enjoy the journey more. Delighted to find your blog through the Ultimate Blog Challenge today. I will be back. My husband is from Nova Scotia and it has become one of my favorite places to spend time.

    1. Thank you! I love the incubation phase too. Feels playful to me and filled with possibility. And I agree about Illumination being the place where mastery begins.
      We moved here last September and it’s a wonderful place for inspiring creativity. It’s in the fabric of lives here, all around me.

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