The Creative Process in Ten Acts

The Creative Process in 10 Acts

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

[Leonardo da Vinci]

The ability to see things differently is a product of curiosity, thinking bigger, making connections, experimenting and testing our hypotheses — and staying away from screens. Our minds need recharging, and when we make space for it, creativity rushes in.

Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain says creativity, curiosity, empathy and multi-disciplinary thinking are among the skills we need for the 21st Century. Ideas come from anywhere, Shlain sees herself as a “conversation maker” — reading, talking to people to then develop short animations to express complicated ideas.

She says there are ten acts to the creative process:

1. The Hunch

“Any project starts with a hunch, and you have to act on it. It's a total risk because you're just about to jump off a cliff, and you have to go for it if you believe in it.”

2.  Talk about it

“Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your community. They're the ones who are going to support you on this whole treacherous journey of the creative process, so involve them, engage them. (Unless, of course, you're an introvert. Then don't tell anyone.)”

3. The Sponge

“I love this stage. I'm going to tons of art shows, I'm watching a lot of movies, I'm reading voraciously. I'm asking questions on Facebook, and Twitter … and I'm just sponging up ideas and trying to formulate my own idea about the subject.”

4. Build

“My team and I are building. We're constructing. We're writing. We're reading. We're collaborating. We're building an armature — the architecture for the project.”

5. Confusion/Darkness

“Here's the scary part. Confusion. Dread. Heart of Darkness. Forest of fire, doubt, fear, every project has this stage for me. But the good thing, as hard as it is — and it is really hard — it that any project… always gets infinitely better after I've rumbled with all of my fears.”

6. Just Step Away

“Take a breather — literally just step away from the project. And I'll build this into the schedule. Just step away. Let it marinate — don't look at it or think about it.”

7. The Love Sandwich

“To give constructive feedback, always snuggle it in love — because we're only human, and we're vulnerable. When we ask for feedback we set expectations for where we are in the project. Then ask for questions in a way that allows for the love sandwich: First, 'What works for you?' Then, 'What doesn't work for you?' Then, 'What works for you?' again. If you just ask people for feedback, they'll go straight for the jugular.”

8. The Premature Breakthroughlation

“You'll find in a project that you'll have many false breakthroughs — and you have to celebrate those breakthroughs, because they're ultimately going to lead to the big breakthrough, which will happen.”

9. Revisit your notes

“I always do this throughout the project, but especially during that last home stretch. Those late nights. That extra mile. Usually near a deadline. I revisit all my notes and feedback, and always find a clue–that missing link that brings it all home.”

10. Know When You’re Done

“I love this part!”

Our mind is for having ideas, and all our skills are for putting them out into the world. We can create more by getting better at it.