Whether it’s starting a new business, developing a strategy, delivering a project or making art, we all have a process, even if we think it looks nothing like one – because processes are meant to be structured and linear and creativity is often anything but.
In fact, the creativity process can look something like this:
Come up with an idea. Get ridiculously excited. Perform a mad visioning process. Write an outline. Sincerely question your ideas (even your sanity). Know it must have been done before. Put it away. Come back. Contemplate. Walk away. Come back. Get frustrated. Let it sit. Come back. Revise. Create. Leave it for a while. Come back. Commit. Contemplate. Meditate. Keep triggering inspiration. Listen to your muse. Revise. Create. Revise. Create. Revise. Create. Revise. Create. Revise. Revise. Revise. Complete. Collapse. B r e a t h e .
This process can happen over a couple of months or a couple of years. Some parts of it may be compressed or really drawn out. It’s not always the same, but the elements or some variation of them are usually there. And it’s always a dance.
Maureen McHugh outlines the life of a project like this (from Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon):
- This is the best idea ever
- This is gonna take some work
- This sucks – and it’s boring
- Dark night of the soul
- It will be good to finish because I’ll learn something for next time
- It’s done and it sucks, but not as bad as I thought
Here’s the thing with creativity and processes. Messy is nothing to be afraid of. It’s only an issue when you think it should be a straight line and it ends up being a pretzel. But when you start out with the pretzel in mind, you aren’t freaked out when the first curve comes, and the twists no longer take you by surprise.
Start your creative project. Pick it up. Dust it off. Open the file. Grab the new art journal. Start. And when you get to that first pretzelly turn, put your helmet on, kick yourself into high gear, and ride that twist until it flatlines.
This is your work. All you have to do is show up and do it. It’s that simple. And that messy. So go.