August 01, 2022 3 min read

The Creative Process

It's noon, and almost time for lunch. You've been sitting in your chair diligently, researching topics, taking notes, and trying to come up with ideas. But something's wrong. You can't put your finger on it, but you can't seem to write anything down. Maybe it's writer's block. Whatever the issue, it's preventing you from getting into a groove. Creative work isn't easy. Ideas don't just drop into your lap when you start at 9:00 and continue until you sign off at 5:00. If it were that easy, creative roles wouldn't be in demand. Anyone can come up with ideas, but how do you ensure that the ideas you develop are timely, practical, and relevant? Have you ever wondered if you could improve your creative process? Today, we look at the five steps in the creative process you can use to guide your creativity and help focus your creative thinking.

The Five Steps to Creativity

The names of the steps vary depending on the resource you use. James Taylor's creative process begins with Preparation, Incubation, Insight, Evaluation and ends with Elaboration. While some of his terms are different (Insight, Evaluation and Elaboration), the principles of each stage are generally the same. Each step requires creatives to place themselves in the proper mindset to get the most out of the process. According to the Pearce Center for Professional Communication, social psychologist Graham Wallace originally outlined the creative process in his book, The Art of Thought, published in 1926.

Step 1: Preparation

In this first stage, the process begins by researching ideal topics through an online search. You could also visit a local library for physical books or online service for eBooks. You could read poetry, listen to music, watch documentaries, or explore other forms of media for inspiration. The more information you consume, the broader your horizon will grow. James Taylor suggests you consume as much as you can in a quiet environment because the accumulated knowledge will go directly into your subconscious.

Step 2: Incubation

In the Incubation stage, the information you've consumed will sit in the back of your mind and begin to be processed. This stage encourages you to step away from further developing the idea and focus on something else. This gives your subconscious a chance to process everything you read, listened to, or watched to deepen your understanding of a topic. According to James Taylor, you have no control over how long you'll be in the incubation stage and this stage could take days, weeks, months or even years.

Step 3: Illumination / Insight

In this stage, a solution is revealed while you are focused on another task. You could've been walking your dog, running, driving your car, or taking a shower. It could be something as small as an overlooked word or phrase that your target audience uses. That word or phrase has led you to a key insight that could evolve into your big idea.

Step 4: Evaluation

Now that you have an idea, it's time to figure out if it's the right one. Does it solve your problem? Sharing your idea with peers is a great way to evaluate the solution from a different perspective. If it works, your peers will see it. Otherwise, you'll have to go back to the Incubation stage.

Step 5: Verification / Evaluation

Whether it's the words and images for an integrated marketing campaign or a song to complete your debut album, once you reach this stage, it's time to plant your idea and give it life. While the creative process and the names of the steps may differ slightly from one creative to another, the result is the same. The creative process will compartmentalize knowledge as you navigate the spectrum of ideas to identify that nugget of information. This critical insight will hatch the next big idea. Yours.

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