Over the past few weeks, the persistent question I keep seeing around me is… how do we create? What processes do we follow? What magic formula exists for people who create these amazing products?
Anyone who creates has a process (even if they think they don’t… keep reading if you disagree!) but what makes a good one?
What is creative process?
Creative process, in my opinion, is whatever gets the creator from A to B. From the beginning to the end. From planning to publication. From the spark of imagination to a final product.
Being creative is about creating. It is not only about good ideas; that’s being imaginative. Imaginative thinking is important, and it’s part of the process, but by itself it is not ‘being creative’.
Therefore, creative process takes you from the flash of a thought, to the building of that idea, to the polishing of the work, to the sharing or finishing of what was created.
And I do want to just take this moment to say: this process is not necessarily easy. It is not necessarily fun. Sometimes it is incredibly hard. Sometimes it is excessively boring.
So what is good creative process?
A good creative process is whatever takes the person who is creating from A to B, producing the best possible outcome.
I wish I could give more information than that. But I cannot sit here and pretend to understand and have all the secrets on what works for every person who creates. I know some people who, when they write, need to sit and write down every single word that occurs to them at once, then go over with a fine tooth comb and edit ruthlessly. I know other people who will sit and think, and carefully, over the course of about five minutes, write one sentence.
Do both ways end up with a product? Do both ways take a lot of hard work and time?
Of course they do.
Good creative process is about learning how you create. Learning how your brain develops ideas.
No-one else in the world has a brain that is exactly like yours.
Therefore, although wonderful ideas can be shared by people who create truly beautiful art, there is no guarantee that their process will become yours.
How do you build your own creative process?
Thankfully, in all of this, we are not left entirely in the dark. If you have ever sat down in a classroom, you have heard about potential creative processes. If you have ever asked a creator how they make what they do, you have heard about potential creative processes.
It is not enough, however, to have heard about them. You need to try them. You need to keep creating. It takes considerable practice to become a confident creator. Just like learning an instrument, everything gets better with time and effort.
Most classical musicians will tell you (mostly when they are worried about an exam or assignment), that Mozart wrote the overture to Don Giovanni the morning it premiered.
Why could he do that? Well, an overture does use music from the whole performance, so it wasn’t all entirely new material. But also, Mozart created for a living. He was an incredibly prolific composer, because he needed to be, to simply survive. Therefore, he had his creative process down to a fine art. He knew what he needed to get done to write an overture. So he wrote it in one morning.
So, first of all, if you want to answer this question, you need to start creating. You will never know what you can and can’t do if you don’t try.
Second of all, start recording your creative process. If you really want to know what does and what doesn’t work for you, record what you did. It can be very difficult to remember exactly how you approached an idea when you are at the end of a project. If you write it down, you will be able to reflect on what you would do again and what needs to be thrown out of a very, very high window.
Lastly, don’t be scared. Not everything you create is going to be good. I have to tell you, some of it is going to be bad. That’s the way it goes. You will make mistakes. You will have regrets. But what you won’t regret is that you tried it, learned, and can do better next time.
Jena Ren (Jenny Guilford) – 2019
This post was originally published November 18, 2019.