Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cooking Up Good Ideas [The Creative Process]

Being an art student, I took for granted what the creative process was and how it work. I still take for granted that it isn't taught in many subjects besides the fine arts. In a world that wants everything yesterday, sometimes it is hard to fight for the time to allow your brain to work things out. 

But as I have been relied on recently to come up with some big changes, ideas and designs for various projects I work on, I have fallen back on my training from college. I have started to trust the creative process again. 

If you took many creative writing or art classes in college, you too are probably familiar with the five step creative process. But it is always good to refresh and to remember that the Creative Process doesn't happen in a single hour meeting! 

The Creative Process for creating, well, anything, can be broken down into five steps: 
  1. Preparation 
  2. Incubation 
  3. Illumination 
  4. Evaluation 
  5. Implementation 

Preparation is the first logical step to solving any problem, and whatever huge project you are trying to tackle is a problem. This step includes the researching, brainstorming ideas, and starting to organizing the data you might need to solve the problem. 

If you were making marinara from scratch, this is gathering all the ingredients and dumping them into a pot over low heat. 

Next up is Incubation, and incubation is the hardest step. This is when you have to walk away from your marinara and just let it simmer. Go clean the house, set the table for guests or start organizing your bills for the month. 

Simply walk away

In the creative process, incubation allows your problem to move from your conscious mind to your subconscious. The ideas cook there for a few days. Sure, you may go back to your notes and add a few thoughts, but ideally you don’t spend much time consciously working on your problem for a while. 

Let your subconscious genius rein. 

If your subconscious does its job, the next step comes naturally. In text, such as Graham Wallas' The Art of Thought (1926), it is called “Illumination”, but I like the “Ah-ha!” moment better. This is that exact point when your marinara has fully cooked, and all those herbs and spices blend into an epiphany sauce you are proud to show off. The idea all of a sudden "clicks" in your conscious brain. The parts fall in place and the idea is ready to clean up, prep and be served. 

Evaluation is your chance to decide how to present your sauce, and Implementation is diving off the high board and actually serving your sauce [with the rest of the meal that compliments it]. These steps take a ton of work, but usually come naturally after that brilliant “Ah-ha” moment. 

That’s it. That’s the creative process in it’s most simple form. 


Use it, trust it, and believe in it. 


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 photo credit: citymama on flickr

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