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Understanding the creative process

Five steps to follow for a more creative brain

By Hannah Massen

When you think of the creative process, you probably picture a series of subjective steps exclusively embarked on, and understood, by gifted artists and writers. But creativity — and the actual creative process – isn’t only for those who are innately creative. In fact, not only is creativity something that everyone can uncover – and utilize – in everyday life but business owners, in particular, can harness their creative side in order to put creativity to work for them and their businesses.

The creative process isn’t just for artists and writers, or those who are innately creative. In business, following the five main stages of the creative process can not only help you come up with some out-of-the-box ideas but can help you creatively grow your business.

Contrary to popular belief, the creative process does have a standard structure. Everyone has a different way of generating ideas (for some of us, it’s Pinterest and white wine), but the process usually begins by gathering inspiration and culminates in a final product. So, if you’ve ever created an original work of any type, you’ve been through the creative process yourself – perhaps without even knowing it. 

Ready to uncover your creative side and put the power of creativity to work for you and your business? Experts have broken down the creative process into five main stages. So whether you’re an established artist or an emerging entrepreneur, breaking it down into these steps can help unlock your out-of-the-box thinking and unleash your inner creativity.

  • Preparation. The first stage of the creative process is one you’re likely familiar with: preparation. While it might feel like you’re cramming for an exam, now’s the time to consume as much inspirational material or useful information as you can. But getting informed doesn’t have to be boring. Searching for hashtags on Instagram, watching TedTalks, or even watching people can inspire you. This stage is both an external and internal process, consisting of both going into the world to gather the information you need, and then truly thinking about and engaging with all of this new information that you’ve gathered so you can take it to the next step. 
  • Incubation. Phase two is when you let all that information and inspiration soak in. You might not feel like you’re doing much, but your subconscious should be hard at work dreaming up ideas. Don’t be too hard at yourself if you spend a day staring at a blank Word doc or scribbling out ideas. Give yourself time for the next stage to occur.
  • Insight. You’ve had an idea. A breakthrough. A “eureka” moment. But the insight stage might not hit you like a Mack truck. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a daydream, a passing thought, or even an idea you didn’t take seriously at first. Keep a notepad handy to document your thoughts. Or, for $15 visit Amazon (for the umpteenth time this month) and order the Brilliant Ideas launch pad by Kari Chapin.
  • Evaluation. Once you’ve settled on an idea, it’s time to put it to the test. This is the phase where you really dig deep – as tricky and painful as it might be to your ego – and ask yourself if this is an idea that’s ultimately worth working on. Does it hold up against a flood of critical thinking, honest questions, and the scrutiny of your peers? Is it logistically possible with the resources you have available? 
  • Elaboration. Once your idea has passed the scrutiny test, it’s time to bring it to life. For many, this stage can take longer than the other four put together (or at least feel that way if you’re up against a deadline). If you come up with something you’re not completely happy with, repeat steps 1-4.

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