Some Thoughts on The Creative Process

So I’m gearing up to teach an undergraduate class on Creativity and The Writer.  I don’t know what possessed me to propose it: I have a pretty cushy setup at this point in my career. I’ve been teaching the same four courses over the past five years and I’ve chiseled and polished them down pretty well.  And still, even knowing where I’m going and where I’ve been, teaching a class is always a feat, even when it’s old hat.  There is alway something to tweak, something to adjust, some new information to insert, chronology to  rearrange, assignments to be scrapped and redrawn, and so much work one wonders if the process ever ends (it doesn’t).

So why would I chose to make my life more difficult by teaching an entirely different course from scratch? Especially one that’s outside of my comfort zone, disciplinarily speaking? I’m not an expert on creativity. I’m just a creative writer who’s curious to figure out what the heck is going on in my brain when I think up something?

I think the reason I took on the challenge is because creative people, to a certain extent, like to be scared, and because there is a part inside of me that recognizes that unless I take a leap of faith and do this something really scary, I will never really get good at it (believe me, standing up before twenty something twenty-somethings attempting to sound authoritative and engaging when they’ve had 4 hours of sleep, are still hungover from last night’s date and haven’t eaten breakfast and have a test due right after your class is really scary).

I have copious lists of articles, books, diagrams and interviews on creativity, but it will all just be dabbling unless I can organize it into something challenging, something that moves me past learner into something else. That’s one of the steps I find is necessary to being creative: if you want to get good at something, you have to do something scary.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Do not expect to fail, but when you do, realize it’s inevitable.

In any case, now that I”m in a mad rush to come up with a great syllabus, reading materials, class activities and assignments, I’m scouring libraries and the internet like crazy.  Here, I ran into this really cool video on the creative process.


The standard breakdown of the creative process that most people are familiar with is the Wall’s model of the creative process which breaks it down into four acts: preparation (doing a lot of studying) incubation (let the studying percolate) illumination (also known as the aha! moment, or reaching a breakthrough) and verification (testing out that your aha! moment was authentic and not just a lark).

Creative Process Map

However, the ten stages of creativity that this filmaker outlined feels much more fun and true to artists.  It also reminds me of a book I read by Twyla Tharp titled The Creative Habit which had some really wonderful ideas about starting creative projects, like selecting a nice, large box to drop photographs, documents, records or ticket stubs or anything having to do with a specific creative project that you want to work on.

Anyway, here is the video on the ten stages of creativity.

And here are some more of my blogs on creativity that have videos and lists of readings that you might enjoy:

The Biology of Writing (or Not Writing) Creatively

John Cleese on creativity

Writers on Writers’ Block

Why Creative Writing is Necessary to Our Collective Future

Creativity, Education and The Economy

And Art Will Deliver Us

The Scholarship of Story Telling (an annotated bib)

Published by laura

I'm the author of two short story collections, a story cycle, and a collection of short memoirs. I am an educator, literary translator, journal editor, and writing coach.

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