Let’s be honest: it’s difficult to be creative all the time. On some days, the words and ideas flow freely. On others, my mind is a big black pit of nothingness and my Delete key takes a pounding. Some creative types appear able to produce a work of art or 1000 words at the drop of a hat, but for the rest of us mere mortals, our bouts of creativity happen after effort.
Like me, you might be surprised to learn that psychologists have developed models for the creative process. After all, isn’t creativity a right-brain activity and the opposite of analytical? As someone who is both creative and analytical, thinking about the creative process this way is interesting: it explains what I do naturally, and makes me feel better about those days when I’m unable to write anything.
The four phases of creativity
Every idea, even one that is seemingly spontaneous, begins with a little forethought. When Novel Collective was just an unfocused beginning of an idea, I browsed existing websites and the services they offered, read articles and books by self-made creatives and entrepreneurs, and pinpointed my strengths, skills and what I enjoy the most. My idea wasn’t yet defined, but I was laying the groundwork.
Ideas need time and space to develop. This means stepping back and not consciously thinking about them. For me, a good night’s sleep, a run or a change of scene — sometimes even as small as making a cup of tea — work best. Giving yourself the space to set your thoughts aside helps your mind fit the pieces together. I’ve often finished a run with a lightbulb moment, which brings us to phase 3.
This is your “aha!” moment. I know I’m having one of these when I feel a rush of excitement and want to drop everything and start creating. The idea feels right in my gut, and I’m ready to start talking about it with other people.
The final phase is where you work. If my vision is clear, the finished product can come together quickly. However, often my idea needs a little refinement, taking me right back to the preparation and incubation phases. I’ve conceptualised and written some articles for Novel Collective in a couple of hours; others have taken me weeks and many drafts from idea to completion. This work phase involves dedication and commitment and is the all-important step between having a great idea and turning that idea into reality.