Pt. I: The Creative Process

You are creative. Yes, you. Chances are, you just read this and thought: “I’m not an artist. I’m not creative. How could this pertain to me?” 

Imagine this essay is a door—a door leading you into a new way of thinking about creativity. On one side is creativity defined by the world, where a select few can only participate. On the other side, is a lush paradise where creativity isn’t confined to a box. Stop, take a minute to release your preconceived notions about creativity, and walk through, confidently, ready to see yourself in a new light. 

The definition of creativity is “the ability to make new things or think up new ideas.” Every individual has this ability. “Artists” in the traditional sense aren’t the only group that has creativity. You just have to find your medium.

Sometimes it’s a camera, sometimes it’s an instrument, sometimes it’s not something traditionally viewed as “artistic”. Your medium may not be oil paints or a pen, but everyone has one (or two or three.) It just takes a different perspective to find it. You can be in the most analytical of environments, but if you’re thinking up new ideas, you’re being creative.

In the first chapter of Genesis, God “created the heavens and the earth” and “created man in His image.” If God is a creator, and we were created in His image, then we are gifted with that same creativity. Within our being is the ability to make things that inspire. We’ve been given the tools to be pioneers in our unique fields. Everyone is an artist, put on this earth for a specific purpose. Creativity and the creative process is for everyone.

Though there isn’t a scientific formula for the creative process, I have narrowed it down to 3 foundational principles. If you know them, you’ll be reminded of certain fundamentals— if you don’t, then the following will provide much to consider and give you the encouragement needed to start your creative pursuits.

Lacking this foundation, it is hard to be consistently creative. I’d argue that consistent creativity is a necessary part of becoming a more well-rounded human. If you’re a consistently pushing yourself to get better and to start something new, you will be a valuable asset wherever you are. 

  1. Inspiration— Inspiration is much more than just the first step of the creative process; inspiration is the most fluid and important step. It should be happening all day, every day, and be present at all times during the day. It is very hard to create without being inspired first. This day and age, it’s easier than ever to be creatively inspired. If you see anything on Instagram or Pinterest that inspires you, save it. You never know when it is going to come in handy. If you are traveling, snap a picture of a restaurant that has a beautiful interior, or a menu that has a great layout. If you are shopping, take a picture of a blouse that has a unique pattern, or a pair of shoes that speak to you. Be on the lookout where you live as well. I have snapped many a picture while just walking my dog. The inspiration I find in nature never ceases to amaze me - it inspires almost all that I do. The perfect banana yellow flower bud on a sage green cactus - the sandy white beaches of Mexico lining the turquoise water of the Caribbean sea - and a blood red dahlia balancing on a lincoln green stem - these are just a few examples of what speaks to me. Nature may not inspire you, but everyone is inspired by something. Just find what your “something” is.  And be ready for inspiration to hit at any moment— even those that seem innocuous. Very rarely does inspiration hit sitting at a desk, exactly when you want or need it to. For me, inspiration tends to hit me when I least expect it - while I’m driving listening to a song in the car, or just before I fall asleep. Always have a pen and pad handy — moments of inspiration will drift away just as easily as they come.
  2. Imagination- This is where you get "down and dirty" in the process of making something. Never have just one draft. It’s important to start big and get smaller. I always start on paper and sketch my designs out. Then, I move over to the Adobe Creative Suite after getting a simple layout thought through. Obviously, if you are not a graphic designer this specific flow does not pertain to you, but the premise stays the same. If you are a writer, get your initial stream of consciousness out onto a piece of paper, then organize and whittle it down. If you are a photographer, try many different settings and shots. Your first shot may look fine, but your 150th shot may be perfect. Above all, try to remember to be patient. The old adage, “patience is a virtue,” could not be more true when engulfed in the process of creative trial and error. The incubation period of imagination is the hardest (and longest) part of the creative process. Sometimes it takes a couple of hours, and sometimes it takes a couple of weeks before you reach that euphoric “aha” moment.
  3. Rest— If you work on something too long, you can start to get a cloudy brain. Sometimes you need to put it aside for a bit, and resume work later. Let the idea rest in your mind for a while. You’d be surprised about how much of a difference even 2 hours can make.  Another facet of rest is sharing your product with others, allowing their unique perspective and abilities to “work” on the idea. However, it is important to be selective in sharing your work ahead of the finished product. This can be hit and miss - showing something to too many people can make your ideas convoluted, but showing to too few people can make you unaware of the first impressions your work may give. When you have put blood, sweat, and tears into something, it is hard to step away from it with unbiased oversight. Everyone has a different opinion on something. As a result, showing your product to a couple of trusted mentors or friends can make all the difference. Finally, have confidence in your creation. If you feel strongly about it, stick with it.

Through these foundational principles, you will be able to produce quickly and fluidly. This by no means is the quintessence of creativity. I’m still working through the creative process myself, and for as long as I create I will never have the perfect equation figured out. The creative process is as unique to an individual as their personality. I work with a lot of creatives, and my creative process looks different than theirs. I am both right-brained and left-brained, so my creative process looks more mathematical than a true right-brained creative, but this is the beauty of humanity. We are all unique, which allows for variety in our work and in life. If this isn’t exactly how you create best, that’s ok. Use these steps as a foundation, and go from there. Be inspired by what is around you, let your imagination run wild, let your ideas incubate, and, last but not least - be ready to fail. Not every idea is a masterpiece, but every idea can teach you something.

Follow Jordan on Instagram