If you’ve ever had the inspiration to start a creative project, no doubt you would have been filled with excitement and enthusiasm in the beginning. Once you started working on the painting for example you might have found yourself loosing momentum and eventually coming to a frustrating halt. Having inspiration alone isn’t enough to be consistently creative. This might sound strange to say from someone like myself who values and nurtures inspiration everyday. But, in reality there’s more to the process than inspiration alone. The scenario goes something like this… You’ve had this cool idea to do a painting for example and sit down with your paints and canvas one day. Some time later as you progress more and more with this cool idea things change, you’ve probably started getting second thoughts about this ‘great idea’. Is it really going to work? I don’t feel as excited about this project anymore.
This is where inspiration starts to fade and where most people abandon going through with their project.
Why does that happen?
Most creative people have very similar cycles of interest and disinterest in their projects until they finish it. One of the main things people who aren’t actively ‘creating’ don’t realise is that creativity is not just about getting one spark of inspiration and then it’s smooth sailing until you finish your masterpiece. That very rarely happens in my experience.
Instead what we should consider when embarking on a new creative project is that we will need to allow space for this project to be conceptualised, refined and finished.
What do these creative stages mean?
It’s not as daunting as it sounds so don’t be put off by the phrases. When we first get a boost from our creative muse we are naturally excited about what we are about to start. This is usually because it’s all about discovery and about exploration. We are exploring an idea and the options seem limitless. We can usually visualise (some might find this harder than others) and we want to get started right away. In the conceptualise phase you should be sketching your idea, writing down thoughts. You might be using photos as a starting point. In this phase you should’t judge or rule things out. Remember it’s about exploring so the more you explore your idea the better. Other people might call this brainstorming.
Next comes the actual working up of your project. It requires a bit more focused work and planning. This is where you need to set out some time for yourself to paint, draw or whatever it is you need to do. It’s about keep your idea alive and developing the look with some quality time spent on it. It doesn’t mean you have to stay up late, but it’s important to be consistent with your allocated time to be creative. Mark out time in a planner where you will work on your project and try to stick to it just like you would for a doctor’s appointment.
During this phase you should be able to work on your piece for say 15-20 minutes or more then come back to it the next day or day after and check how your progress is going. Some good questions to ask yourself at this stage are: Is this looking close to what I first envisioned? Are the colours working together as I expected? These are the type of questions only you can answer based on what you drew or wrote in your concept stage.
This back and forth is where the development phase really makes a difference. It helps you stay on track and allows you to direct your work to the end goal of finishing. If you feel like things are not going exactly as you had envisioned, then you can decide to change something now or keep going if you think this direction is better anyway. You never really know which direction your work might go until you are developing a project. Sometimes happy surprises occur that make you think – wow! this is better despite it not looking like I thought.
The finishing stage is pretty straight forward. It’s where you are really cleaning up lines, or adding finishing touches to paint. It’s where you are now sure of what this ‘thing’ should look like and you need to do the work to get it there. In a way this is a satisfying time, because you have got past your self doubt and you are seeing the final thing in full glory.
So to summarise:
- Conceptualise – Sketch or write down your initial idea/s. Discover and explore in this phase to see where you might take your creative project
- Develop – Begin the work whether it’s painting, drawing or writing and create a consistent time frame that you can achieve. Reassess your progress as you go and adjust the direction if needed.
- Finish – The end goal is in sight so knuckle down and make those final touches to finish that piece.
This method can be applied to any piece of creative whether it’s a painting, drawing, collage or writing. All these projects require the same process from start to finish to get the most out of it. And more importantly to get from that initial spark of inspiration to the finished piece that you can proudly show friends and family.