The four stages of the creative process

No matter what we do for a living, whether designer, writer, or statistical actuary, we all struggle with the creative process.

Turns out, someone has actually studied the steps. (Thanks to Jim Osterman for passing this along):

Researcher Graham Wallas identifies four stages of the creative process. The four stages, adapted by Pierce Howard, author of The Owner’s Manual for the Brain, are:

1) Preparation: The time for research, fact gathering, assembling materials, gathering needed information before the creative act.

2) Incubation: This is the period of gestation, of letting go so that the mind, the unconscious, intuition, and emotion can mull over the information and put it into its own original perspective. Dreaming may be a part of this period.

3) Inspiration: The “Aha!” when the solution, illumination, or discovery either emerges or forces itself through into a coalesced form.

4) Evaluation or confirmation: This is the time to ask, Will it work, does it hold up next to other theories, does it logically fit with the original stimulus?

Yeah, that correlates with my observation of the creative process, which I’d describe thusly:

1) Slacking off: Plenty of time before the deadline, so play a round of foosball or take a stroll for a caramel latte.

2) Panic: Uh-oh. Deadline looms. No ideas yet. Ulcer blossoms. You become increasingly aware that unless you bring an end to this mental constipation you’ll be exposed as the uncreative hack you really are.

3) Birth: Hey, wait a minute here’s an idea the doesn’t suck! And another! You’re tempted to use the word genius.

4) Reality-check: Maybe some of the ideas you came up with are lame. Okay, let’s be honest, most are lame. But you kept your job another day. Secretly you affirm the whole genius thing.

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