The Five Phases of the Creative Process

Be Unstoppable

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.

Incubate

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.

Illuminate

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.

Implement

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 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.

Communicate

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 reason we create is to communicate. It's one step in the #creative process. Click To Tweet

Evaluate

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!

The Creative Fire Cafe

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