It’s an elusive thing, isn’t it, what we call the “creative process”. Sometimes it eludes us altogether, and we don’t create as we should, as much as we should, or create at all.
A while ago I came across three simple points that, to me, lay out a fair starting point for any creative process. Directly applicable to writers, of course, but useful for all creatives who finds themselves tasked with the almost God-like mandate to make something where there is nothing.
I write this more for myself than for anyone else. To forget the basics of creation is to lose one’s way and let go of one’s power; and to keep them close and act upon them is to create the best.
Here they are—the three landmarks of a creative process that survives:
- Start with something you half-understand. If you know all the answers, you’re done, the project’s a lost cause, and creativity disappears. Only by staying on the edge of what you do know, and reaching into the known unknown can you find that spark to begin the work and keep you going.
- Let everything come out. Without judgement, without conscious
decision. Any word, note, idea, perspective, nuance, detail, sound, feel. Blow up the dam and let clear waters flow forth along with the inevitable debris. Set your mind and heart free. Play.
- Find the north star of what you’re left with. Search for the meaning in this outpouring. Once you find it, act quickly. Cut out everything that does not somehow connect to and bring out that central story, message, or meaning of this body of work. Follow your gut. It will know what belongs and what doesn’t.
Think on this: Everything you make and will make that is good and worthwhile and beautiful lies just beyond what you do know.
Living in just enough unknown to continue reaching forward, to have ideas, to progress—that is the pulsing essence of any long-lasting process of creation. (Which changes from person to person, and from moment to moment, of course.)
Take what you can use and leave the rest. You’re welcome.