Know Where You Stand in Your Creative Journey
6 stages of the creative process (hurdles and solutions) and how to proceed if you are stuck!
A lot of people believe creativity is a spontaneous phenomenon. Or that — It just ‘happens’. Or — there is no method to the madness. It is believed that in order to be a creative writer you should be blessed by The Muse.
But any such spontaneous occurrence can occur only once in a while. If creativity were really a chance occurring, we wouldn’t have the same people creating awe-invoking stuff regularly.
You wouldn’t have Pink Floyd members being creative so often. There wouldn’t be a list of Picasso works to remember or Stephen King novels to read.
The mystification of the creative process was probably a tool for the early writers, painters and composers. It prevented competition!
Competition was prevented not only by the way of deterring enthusiasts but also by encouraging excuse-makers.
The mystification leads to a feeling of awe in the mind of an admirer. But this awe is also felt by the budding creative enthusiasts. Only in their case the awe is followed by jealousy with a corresponding loss in confidence.
Despite the overwhelming awe that creativity inspires, there is an algorithm to it.
There IS a method to the madness!
Every creative person has their own personal space in which the Muse sings to them. Everyone has their own routine, their own set of rituals and own ‘idio(t)syncrasies’.
But what is common among most writers is that they go through the same functional and emotional stages during their creativity.
It is difficult to know that you are on the correct path when you are gestating creativity. Recognizing which stage of the creative journey are you stuck at is the first step towards completing it.
If any of the following steps resonate with you, it just means that you have to ‘hang in there’!
1) An idea is born
It is an ill-shaped thought but one that creates euphoria in your mind. It makes you jump up from the bed at 2 in the morning and start dancing. You know this idea is going to sweep the world off its feet.
Soon you start dressing up your idea with imaginary skins. You imagine it take the most attractive shapes. You imagine audience applauding and news spreading.
This is the phase where writers should massage their thought with the loftiest of aspirations.
With enough massage your ill-shaped thought finally grows into an idea that occupies your mind for the next few days.
2) Mood Swings
Between the time you begin acting on your idea and the moment you conceive it, there exists a courtship period.
During this, the idea has already spent a few nights in your bed. The courtship period is a fertile bed for sprouting doubts.
On some days your idea feels like the epitome of your creative career and on other days you scold yourself for thinking such an outrightly dumb thought.
The judgmental artist in us usually does more harm than good. It is important to ignore the Shoulder Devil.
Brave this phase. Listen to the positive thoughts and embark on your creative journey as soon as you can.
3) Epiphany and Iterations
You enter into the Superman/Wonder-Woman mode and put all your energy into this idea. You start shaping it up to be the next big thing.
You create a skeleton. Then you adorn it with the most beautiful of skins. You write intelligent phrases. You insert puns. You draw hidden messages. You construct harmonies.
Then you stand back and look at your creation. It is nowhere close to your original expectation. Your eyeballs are repelled from its mere face. You go back to your table and start over.
This is the phase where you are going to spend most of your time in. There ARE going to be re-iterations!
Keep you patience! Huge emotional turmoil is going to occur as you bridge the gap between your expectation and the reality.
The trick is to keep at it until you feel 90% finished.
4) 90% complete — The Danger Zone
At 90% mark, creative people fall into 2 types of pitfalls.
- Perfectionist Bug — When they keep finding faults with their almost finished product. When they keep delaying the final release date of their product to make small changes. In such a situation you’ve to follow the motto — done is better than perfect.
- Fast and wobbly lose the race — When they bask in the imagined glory of the idea being realized. A feeling of being almost there makes them relax. They pause at 90% and before they know Procrastination kicks in! They never end up finishing the last 10%.
5) Self-Doubt and Mood Swings are back
If any of the above two bugs bite you and if you remain for far too long in the 90% stage, you start to find faults with your creation. You make excuses for why you are not finishing it.
At that point most people around you know that you are working on this thing and they expect. You cringe every time someone asks you for a release date.
The best thing to do is to pull up your socks and get done with it. Just finish it at whatever stage it is and release it to the world.
6) Finally Releasing Your Creation
Your well-wishers who have been hearing for months without end about your project now want to see it. They want you to stop making excuses.
Whether it is them or your own re-kindled spirit that picks up the pen again, you finally manage to bring it to completion.
You making the final changes. You powder its face. You dress it up to win the best attire contest. The skeleton that once was hidden in the closet of your mind is out on the red carpet.
This is where you market it and sit back and relax and wait for another burst of creativity (wait! didn’t I just say it was methodical).
So go and pick up the pen and start forcing another idea out of your head!
I thank Suranjeeta for the most apt sketches of the life of a creative writer. It was a little ‘Meta’ for the both of us to be creative in writing an article about Creativity.
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