The stages of the creative process

The stages of the creative process

Hey there!

Have you ever wondered about the magical process that goes behind creating something incredible? Whether it’s a beautiful painting, a mesmerizing piece of music, or a well-crafted piece of writing, every creative endeavor starts with a spark of inspiration and undergoes a unique journey called the creative process

In this article, we’re going to go deep into this fascinating journey, exploring the different stages involved and understanding how ideas are transformed into tangible works of art or innovation.

What is known as the creative process is nothing more than the set of stages or phases carried out to implement creativity, with the aim of solving a problem or initiating a project. However, there’s also an important factor in this process for artists, and that’s emotions, which help us—or not—progress in this process.

It is a dynamic and often mysterious adventure that allows individuals to tap into their imagination to bring their visions to life. It’s not just about talent or skill; it’s a journey that involves curiosity, experimentation, and a willingness to embrace both success and failure along the way.

I have to confess that this post stems from a publication I came across on Instagram a long time ago by Stefan Kunz, a renowned artist in lettering and photography.

I’ve been following him for a while because he gives lettering tips and because one of my guilty pleasures is watching short videos of things I would like to do but I’m not sure if I’ll ever be capable of doing.

I know that with practice, everything is achievable, but let’s be honest, everyone is also born with certain aptitudes and skills that make these practices easier.

Another day, I’ll talk about my guilty pleasures.

In his Instagram post, Stefan created some lettering images to talk about the stages of the creative process.

The ones nobody talks about, and I decided I was going to share it here because I loved it, and I’m sure that if you’re a writer or an artist, you’ll feel fully identified.

Graham Wallas was an English socialist, professor, and theorist in political science and international relations, one of the leaders of the Fabian Society, and one of the founders of the London School of Economics.

In 1926, he wrote a book called “The Art of Thought” in which he explained the stages of the entire creative process.

In his book, Graham explains that these stages are four.

  1. Preparation: This is the stage where the problem is researched and knowledge is accumulated to build new ideas. It is a conscious process and involves research, planning, and focused attention.
  2. Incubation: This is the stage of the creative process in which there is an unconscious processing period during which no direct effort is made on the problem at hand.
  3. Illumination: In this stage, the “eureka” moment occurs, which is not a conscious act and is achieved only when the mind is relaxed. This is when all the elements gathered in Stage 1 come together, floating in our thoughts involuntarily due to Stage 2.
  4. Verification: This final stage of the creative process shares with Stage 1 the conscious and deliberate effort to test the new idea and give it shape.

As you can see, these stages are described in a very technical way, and in the artistic creative process, which applies to various forms of art: visual, musical, theatrical, literary, etc., artists experience changing moods that either drive them forward, stall them, or set them back.

It’s an internal process that every artist carries and has nothing to do with disciplines and routines.

It does have a lot to do with insecurities and the infamous impostor syndrome, which is always on guard to attack us when we least expect it.

And, like I mentioned before, the way Stefan presented it was fun and great. Let’s see the six steps of the creative process in the artistic medium, according to Stefan Kunz.

  • Step 1: This is awesome. This is what you think with every new idea that surprises you and injects the necessary strength to sit down and non-stop…
  • You’re surprised by Step 2: This is Tricky. This is complicated. Ah, yes, in this stage, you realize that things are not flowing as you would like, and you start to feel frustrated enough to let step number 3 take control.
  • Step 3: This Sucks. You’re at that point where negativity completely envelops you, and you think the piece is worthless and that it’s best to give up and start another project because this one, definitively, doesn’t work. It’s a shame.
  • But then, Step 4 arrives: I Suck. You remember that you have several things started because you’ve been through this before, and you begin to question your talent.

You think a thousand times that it’s best to give it all up and find another job because the truth is, even with one, five, ten, or twenty years of a well-established artistic career, you’re good for nothing. 

You’re not up to par. Perhaps you’ve never been good at it.

Damn impostor syndrome!

Thankfully, there comes a moment when you discover a message from an admirer expressing their profound connection with your artwork or commending a specific element in your piece. 

Alternatively, a newfound critique may catch you by surprise, injecting a fresh sense of inspiration. 

In this pivotal moment, you find yourself entering the next phase.  

  • Step 5: This Might Be Ok. Mind you, you still doubt, but you also start to diminish the power of the impostor syndrome.

And finally! This brings you to step six, where your neurons activate again, and the negativity gives way to the desire to continue writing the story. Suddenly, you feel a deep love for it, and you think…

  • Step six: This is Awesome! It’s incredible once more, and you believe it’s the best work you’ve ever done.

When I reached slide seven of Stefan’s post about his perspective on the creative process and saw this timeline, I couldn’t have felt more identified with something in my life because the timing of each stage is truly like this.

You start with enthusiasm, make some progress, and then you realize that things aren’t going as expected, that the thing wasn’t going to be as easy; and you get stuck, beating yourself up for a long time; first, for how bad the work is; and later, for how bad you are as a artist. Then, after this period, you return to normal and love life all over again.

This creative process is like going to a party and getting drunk.

I’m not sure if all creative processes are the same, but mine is, even with discipline; emotions tend to play dirty, and we let them win most of the time with their sneaky tricks.

As you can see, the creative process is a magical and exciting journey that allows us to unleash our inner brilliance and bring out the best in ourselves. Embracing the various stages can be both fulfilling and challenging, but I think that without those stages, this path will be very plain and even boring.

So, go ahead and dive into the creative process without hesitation. Whether you’re drawing, writing, dancing, or inventing, the world eagerly awaits the unique gifts that only you can create. 

Let your creativity shine, and may your creative process be filled with joy, wonder, and endless possibilities.

I would love to hear about your own artistic journey. 

Share your experiences and insights in the comments below, and let’s create a vibrant community of creators who support and uplift one another.

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