The creative process - how does it work?

The creative process - how does it work?

The ability to nurture your creativity and generate ideas provides a sense of satisfaction and helps you solve life's problems.

Creative inspiration can strike at any time, it doesn't adhere to a 9 to 5 schedule.

When I'm working on a problem or a new design, many times I'll wake up in the middle of the night with the solution. It's not uncommon for me to get up at 1 or 2 am, work at the computer for an hour or two, then go back to bed. It's not always ideal, but that's the way it is.

The creative process works something like this:

Step 1: Preparation

Research the problem and take in as much data as possible. Be a sponge and absorb everything related to the subject. Brainstorming is extremely helpful - don't judge your thoughts yet, just write down as many ideas as possible, as quickly as you can. There are no bad thoughts at this stage.

Sometimes the creative process starts with the idea. Sometimes you just have a hunch or a feeling. You don't need all the answers to the problem yet, just imagine what 'finished' might look like - you'll figure it out later.

Step 2: Incubation

Sit back and allow your subconscious mind to work it out. Sleeping on it often helps you solve a problem. Once you've gathered data, step away and take your mind off of it. Do another task, take a walk, or go run an errand.

It's important to allow the solution become what it wants to be, without having too many preconceived notions about it. The famous copywriter Bill Bernbach said that every product has inherent drama, let yourself tap into it. This 'letting go' can be a challenge but you'll get better solutions.

Step 3. Illumination

This is the eureka moment. Suddenly, an idea begins to take shape. Don't be intimidated by deadlines, they can work to your advantage by forcing you to move the idea from incubation to illumination.

Often, doing mundane tasks help with this stage of the creative process. Many people have their eureka moments in the shower, sleeping, or while driving. Exercising is great too: Drain the body, clear the mind.

Step 4. Verification

Execution is probably the most important and difficult stage. Sometimes the first idea isn't the best one, so don't fall in love with the solution just yet, authenticate it first. If you're having to force something, it may be a sign that you need to start over. Often times, 10 or 20 ideas get tossed before the right solution is chosen.

You'll find many examples throughout culture when people talk about the creative process.

Frank Lloyd Wright procrastinated 9 months after getting the commission for his famous Fallingwater home. Then the client called and wanted to see how it was coming along. Mr. Wright executed the original drawings in about 2 hours. His staff was shocked, how could he design THAT house so quickly? The truth is he spent 9 months working out the ideas in his subconscious mind.

Stephen King called his subconscious mind the 'boys in the basement'. He would gather data, take a break, then come back later to solve the problem.

Falling Water
Fallingwater, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935.

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