3 Key Elements to the Creative Process

When I initially sat down to consider the creative process, my first thought was “it takes time.” But we all know you rarely ever go with your first thought. And, we seldom ever get the time desired to execute said process. So, I had to sit back and actually consider, “How DO I work?”

In truth, when you’ve been honing your craft long enough, processes become intuitive. They take less thought, so you tend not to give them any. Yes, yes. There is plenty of research and opinion outlining the five scientifically-proven stages or seven steps of the creative process. And, if you’re interested in watching one person’s creative process in action, I highly recommend Julio Torres’ HBO special My Favorite Shapes.

Luckily, my creative process kicked in and the result is this list of three key elements I bring to every project, whether I have 20 minutes or two weeks (ha ha) to get it done.

Experience is key.
Experience is like a skeleton key that unlocks the secret to a lot of creative success. Based on my experiences, I’ve come to trust my intuition when it comes to creative problem-solving — which, of course, is what we’re talking about here. In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the notion of trained (or expert) intuition. That’s the idea that intuition is based on life experience and the ability to quickly judge situations with a high level of accuracy — which can be an excellent skill for problem-solving and decision making.

The key to this, um, key, is not to let what potentially hasn’t worked in the past become something you won’t try moving forward. And, fret not if you’re new in your career. Learn from each project and interaction; look to a mentor or team member to gain clarity; and, always start with the possibilities — limits will crush this next key to creative problem solving success …

Innovation is key.
Look. Innovation doesn’t have to be this larger-than-life concept. In the truest sense of the word, innovation means “new.”  By starting with the possibilities (as mentioned above), you really open yourself up to new ways of solving a problem.

Being innovative means that no matter how many times you’ve been presented with the same brief, format, or business problem, you’re still able to “come at it fresh.” For me — in my creative process — I often achieve new ways of thinking by turning to collaboration.

No, I’m not saying that I look to others in order to be innovative. But, rather, I draw on the experience of others; build on possibilities with a “yes, and,” approach in which all ideas are accepted; and, I come at my work with a very limited sense of ego in which I have total respect for my experience (and therefor trained intuition) while also acknowledging good solutions require more than my opinion. And knowing great solutions take a lot of work. Which leads me to the last element in my creative process …

Hustle is key.
As I said at the very start of my blog post, you seldom ever go with your first thought. But … maybe you do. In order to arrive at the best possible solution, I typically travel down [several] paths. And, potentially, those paths will lead me right back to where I started. You won’t know until you’ve tried … and tried again … then tried some more.

This is no big secret. But, it might actually be a revelation to actually just sit your butt down and DO. THE. WORK. Look, we all get in our own way — resisting progress in our own creative process. Don’t let you stop you from doing YOU. Take it from Steven Pressfield in his book, ehem, Do The Work, who says, “Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”

Don’t be full of shit. Instead, draw on your experiences, stay open to new solutions, get to work and heed the sage advice of 2019’s “It” poster: Work Hard and Be Nice to People.