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The creative process is not linear but for certain purposes we can treat it as if it is, and break it down into seven stages.

Understanding these stages is useful no matter what we’re making, but becomes essential when we’re engaged in a large project.

If what we’re creating comes easy to us – family dinner, F-R-E-E-writing, a dollar – we can pass right through the stages without noticing them.

If it’s something more challenging – conference catering for 300, a published novel, a million dollars – awareness of the process helps us to avoid overwhelm, and all the other kinds of fears that can so easily derail our intentions.

Awareness of the seven stages also helps us to understand what’s being asked of us at different points of the process.

Each stage has different requirement and calls for different kinds of mindsets and behaviors.

One of the main reasons that creative projects become derailed is because we bring in thoughts and behaviours appropriate to a different stage of the process.

A common example is writers who try to edit (clarification, stage 6) their early ideas and insights too soon, before they have allowed them full formation (incubation, investigation, composition & amplification, stages 2, 3, 4 & 5).

The seven stages of the creative process are: 

  • Intention

    Incubation

    Investigation

    Composition

    Amplification

    Clarification

    Completion

Expressed as actions:

-> Choosing

-> Germinating

-> Researching

-> Drafting

-> Deepening

-> Correcting

-> Finishing and Going Public

Know Which Stage You’re In

The stages are not mutually exclusive  and I don’t want to imply that by separating and laying them out in a list like this.

They interweave and connect and loop around each other, in an interactive waltz. Knowing which stage of the process we’re in allows us to follow the right steps at the right time.

And enjoy the dance.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll look at each stage in detail and a variety of examples to show how understanding the stages of the process makes creating anything a whole lot easier.

Let’s waltz!