If you’ve done any reading into the nature and origins of Creativity, you’ll know: It’s complicated. And that’s just what is happening on a biological level in your brain.
What muddies the water event further is the fact that often highly creative people have highly divergent ways of getting to the results of their creative process.
After explaining the brain science, the psychology and the motivational factors of creativity many times this year, I thought it would be a good idea to unpack my own creative process. I have not always found it to be a transparent thing, but I realise now that I simply lacked the terminology to describe it adequately.
As it turns out, it seems I have a 6-step process. Not very catchy is it? The 6-step process to creative success! Badaaaah!
Regardless of the click-bait potential, after extensive thought, I feel that this is what goes on. Sometimes a couple of these steps occour concurrently, but a lot of the time they occupy their own distinct time frames, explaining the cyclical nature of my creative life.
So here we go.
Step 1: Ingestion
I have always been a voracious reader and I still am. I am also a keen observer, often disconnecting from the world to just watch it drift by, thinking about nothing much at all. In addition, I make a conscious effort to listen as much as possible, saying as little as possible, when people are talking about stuff I know little to nothing about. I know a little bit about an awful lot of stuff. Seriously, my general knowledge is pretty damn wide and disappears down unexpected rabbit holes. I am not going to win Trivial Pursuit every time though, because a lot of what I retain is somewhat esoteric in one way or another. But I ingest a lot of sources, stimuli, inspiration, facts, ideas, information…
Step 2: Digestion
The next step is to internalise this stuff. Things that catch my mind’s eye, I read further about, I talk about them to other people, using the process of vocalisation to reach deeper understanding. I compare it to what I already know, try to place it in the right context, the right frame of reference.
Step 3: Rumination
Different to digestion because it is in this stage that I start to ask what it means… what it means to me, what if, how can I use this, what is its impact? I run loads of scenarios and thought experiments as I ponder over this thing that I now know.
Step 4: Produce, produce, produce, produce
Somewhere along the line, I kick into production over-drive. These periods can last for a week or for 18-months. This is when I just seem to have an unlimited stream of words on tap and, without much conscious thought, I can disgorge vast amounts of writing: poetry, blog posts, short stories, business proposals, training courses… you name it. You see, in the digestion and rumination processes, I have already been trying these ideas out, understanding them, thinking about how they fit into my worldview or changing it. So eventually, when that’s kind of set in my brain, it comes out. Triggered by good weather, a sudden resonance, or a dissonance, anything.
Step 5: Curation
I write way more than I publish or share. Sometimes the corpses of old attempts have new limbs attached and are reanimated, sometimes things are just left to moulder on the hard-drive. But I think about what I want to put out and how and where and when and sometimes even why!
Step 6: Presentation
I never really realised that this was a part of my process. And maybe 15 years ago it wasn’t. The presentation process often involves creating supplementary or complementary content that accompanies this new thing out into the world. It definitely involves the checking and polishing of everything to avoid rudimentary mistakes (I still miss some). Finally, it involves me putting this product out in a specific way on a specific platform for a specific purpose.
What happens after the presentation is where the whole process becomes really organic again. I have learned that I can often not predict the reactions to what I produce and must therefore not overly anticipate things going one way or another. Of course, I have my cunning plans, but I now wait to see how things are received before adjusting those if necessary.
As you can see from the above description, my process is a hybrid of deeply rational, conscious thinking and completely a-rational, unconscious thinking. It’s a flick-flak that startles some people around me, but one that is well documented in creative thinkers from all walks of life and outputs.
Because I now know how I work, I can take greater control over my creativity, I can anticipate, I can be kinder to myself, I can supplement some of the stages. I can forgive myself when things don’t work out. Do you know what your process is? It’s precious knowledge. I can help you discover yours if you like, just get in touch by clicking HERE.