The 5-Step Creative Process

When it comes to being creative, whether through art, music, writing or generating ideas, finding yourself in the right mindset can be tricky. There are no hard-and-fast rules for creating— or else whatever it is would probably have already been created. There are, however, five subconscious stages that people follow during the creative process, which can help you organize your time and maximize your ideas. These stages were originally outlined by social psychologist Graham Wallace in his 1926 book The Art of Thought and are largely agreed upon by creatives today.

Stage One: Preparation

The preparation stage is the brainstorming stage. By letting your mind wander and finding inspiration, you can plant the seeds for your great ideas. Your inspiration can be as specific as looking at work from other artists or writers who you admire or as abstract as simply taking in the world around you. This is where you gather the material to put together your ideas.

Stage Two: Incubation

While it may seem counterproductive at first, the second stage of the creative process is walking away from all of the brainstorming that you have just done. While you take a break from your ideas and do something else, your subconscious continues to mold all of the prepared information into your new idea.

Stage Three: Illumination

This is the stage that everyone likes the most: the “Eureka!” moment. This is the moment where your solution or idea moves from your subconscious to the forefront of your mind. Contrary to many stories we hear, this doesn’t have to be anything dramatic. Your idea may come to you while you are eating breakfast, doing laundry, or even studying for an exam. Suddenly, you know what the next verse of your song should be, how your book should end, or what the solution is to your problem.

Stage Four: Evaluation

After the initial idea has been generated, this stage involves thinking critically about the new idea and weighing it against other solutions. You may seek feedback from peers, conduct marketing research to test the idea, or compare it to the original problem to see if it really works as a solution. After this stage, you will either return to stages one and two if the idea does not hold up or continue ahead with confidence in this idea. Don’t stress though! Not every idea is going to be great, but that doesn’t mean the next one won’t be.

Stage Five: Verification

The final stage of the process is where you bring your idea to fruition. This is where you actually write your story, paint your picture, or create your new invention. You are finally ready to share your new idea with the world.

Written by: Anna Hardymon


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