Creativity isn’t something that happens out of the blues. It is an elaborate process which begins with an idea being born and culminates in that idea taking final shape. This process involves a progression of various thoughts and actions that contribute to the gradual development of the idea. It also involves the application of cognitive skills such as critical thinking, argumentation as well as problem solving. Every individual in the creative fields, whether an artist or a musician, goes through this process, which generally involves five steps: preparation, incubation, illumination, evaluation and verification. Let us look at these steps in more detail.
The beginning of your creative journey involves preparing for and generating an idea. This step is all about absorbing information by conducting research and gathering crucial material, and there is no one way of doing that. Every individual has their own approach. You can either immerse yourself completely into it or you can allow your mind to wander in search of inspiration.
Once you have an idea, the next step is to incubate. Although it may sound strange after all that you’ve gone through to come up with the idea in the first place, it is important to take a step back so that you are able to mull over it through your subconscious. Incubation can take a few days to weeks to even months. During this time, you might want to work on something else or maybe even take a break from the process entirely.
Illumination can be described, in simple terms, as the “eureka!” moment. It is when you have an epiphany about how you can put all the materials together to come up with a solution to your problem. Quite often, it happens while you are engaged in the most trivial of tasks – maybe when you are taking a shower or a walk.
Evaluation is the step where you need to put your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities to the test. This is when you compare your idea to its alternatives and assess its viability. You also go back to your initial problem to see if that idea actually provides a feasible solution. At this stage, you may want to consult your peers or your superiors, and if working with a client, discuss your idea with them for their input.
At the final step of your creative process, you take action. This is when you need to truly put in the work. This is when your idea starts to get transformed into the final product so that you can share it with the work. But keep in mind that it may not be easy. Some days may feel overwhelming but do not stop.
So, the next time you sit down with your paintbrush or your pen, and find yourself lamenting your artist’s block or lack of inspiration, remember that creativity is a process.