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Creativity is a magical, organic process found in every living thing and every aspect of life. It’s not just for artists - every time we dream up an idea for a business, charity, product, event, speech, class or recipe we’re being creative.
As anyone who hangs out with kids will know, it’s innate within us to dream things up and want to make them happen with a wave of our magic wands – Abracadabra!
Creating can also feel scary because it requires a step into the unknown… and on any great adventure there are monsters to face as well as treasures to find. So having a map can come in handy.
Having recently been invited to share my seasons and stages of creativity on Creative Year Conversation with Anna Sayburn Lane, I offer this map to prompt reflection on your own explorations, with the understanding that no map is definitive – creativity is a vast, ever-changing process with multiple pathways.
Seven Stages of Creativity
Rather than a linear set of stepping-stones, I see these seven stages continuously cycle through the creative process.
1. The Spark!
AHA moments appear to come from nowhere, but inspiration is everywhere. We just need to make space to listen – so if you know you get your best ideas in the bath, after a nap or when you’re out in nature, build those into your routine and keep a notebook handy to catch the sparks! Inspiration lights our way throughout the creative process, sparking left-field solutions and innovations.
Once captivated by an idea, we begin playfully experimenting and exploring. ‘Where could this lead?’ - the sky’s the limit and there are so many intriguing possibilities. Following our noses and hunches, we start researching, developing and messing about with the idea, clarifying our direction.
Crunch time comes when we decide to commit to this idea and follow it through to completion. It’s important to clarify WHY this project aligns with your values and how it can serve others.
Announcing your big idea at this point to friends/ colleagues or your intended audience is one way to ensure you will follow through! Keeping an Ideas Book can help park other distracting ideas.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and dig into the WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN HOW of bringing our idea from the realms of imagination into reality.
· WHO will I collaborate with?
· WHAT tools will I need?
· WHERE will it happen?
· WHEN am I intending to finish this? It can be helpful to plot a timeline backwards from completion, identifying key steps along the way.
· HOW will it get done? – how much time/ resources are required daily / weekly/ monthly.
This is where all the hard work gets done, so it's important to keep cheering ourselves on and celebrating milestones with friends.
Just as every treasure is guarded by a dragon, every creative process includes a messy stage where anything and everything can happen including;
· EXTERNAL OBSTACLES – breakdowns, delays, fallouts, mistakes.
· INTERNAL OBSTACLES – self-doubt, imposter syndrome, boredom, resistance.
Challenges test our commitment - we find ourselves thinking "why the hell did I start this - I must have been mad?!" - so holding tight to our WHY can help us stay the course.
Chaos contains wisdom - there may be an important message, edit or redirection to attend to. Staying open, trusting in the process and keeping a sense of humour is essential!
We can breathe a huge sigh of relief - Hooray! – our project is finally complete! Things that can help us across the finish line include:
- Accountability - make your deadline non-negotiable – invite everyone in advance to the launch party. This helps draw a line under the compulsion to endlessly edit.
Reward – to counter any fears around endings, keep revisiting your WHY, visualise a fantastic end result and plan a celebratory treat.
- Celebrate with your supporters - victory dance with your dog (and post it on social media!)
Curtains Up! – it’s time to share our creativity with the world.
This can trigger knee-knocking fears of failure and rejection, as we take a deep breath, jump over the edge and fly! Building a strong support system will ensure we aren’t just pitching out in the dark.
Magic happens when we bravely share our creative contribution with the world. It’s so moving and often surprising to see how our work can touch people – definitely a cause for joyful celebration!
Creativity calls us to be moved by inspiration to explore, commit, put in the groundwork, weather the chaos, follow through to completion and generously share our work. It’s a transforming process, which I believe grows us as people and helps our world grow.
Over to You…
· Do you recognise any of these stages?
· Do any of these stages particularly resonate with where you are now?
· What are your own stages of creativity – can you map, write, draw them?
· For further reflection on the Seasons of Creativity, do visit Anna Sayburn Lane’s Creative Year Conversations.
· You can also sign up to receive my monthly newsletter packed full of music, insight, poetry and podcasts about vocal creativity.