A 5-Step Guide to the Creative Process: Generate Ideas Fast!

The creative process involves generating, developing and working on ideas. Anyone can do it. This article and expert interview reveals how.

Increasing your knowledge of the creative process and optimizing your own allows you to come up with creative ideas more often.

Most creative people like writers, artists, and musicians think that creative ideas just pop into their heads out of nowhere. This can’t be further from the truth. Creative ideas are born during a process of thorough research and strategic breaks.

Normally, writers unintentionally go through the creative process and when ideas are born, they credit it to luck. However, if you understand the creative process and intentionally expose yourself to it, you’ll be able to generate creative ideas on command.

So how do you go from feeling creativity dry to being overwhelmed with creative ideas? Let’s find out!

What Is Creativity And Can Anyone Be Creative?

A 5-step guide to the creative process generate ideas fast!

Everyone has creative potential but most people think that creativity is the art of coming up with a totally new idea. This is false. It’s rare for someone to come up with an idea that nobody else has thought of.

And if you continue thinking that creativity is about coming up with an original idea, you’ll constantly feel overwhelmed when starting your creative process because you’re forcing yourself to do something that’s almost impossible.

Instead, think of creativity as joining two old ideas to form a third, hopefully, creative idea. When you think of creativity like this, it’s easy to generate creative ideas because all you need to do is mix ideas that may or may not be compatible with each other.

And that’s what separates creative people from uncreative people. Creative people understand this and create a reliable creative process that they can follow when in need of ideas. And here’s a proven 5-step formula that you can follow whenever you need to pump out “new ideas”.

  1. Prepare yourself by gathering relevant information.
  2. Step away from the problem and let your subconscious do the work.
  3. Experience the famous “aha” moment.
  4. Do the hard work.
  5. And ask for feedback and improve.

Step 1: Prepare Yourself By Gathering Relevant Information

When you start the creative process, the first step is to immerse yourself in work that’s similar to what you intend to create. This is called the preparation stage.

During the preparation stage, type the keyword of your article into a search engine and see what your competitors are writing about. Next, write down all the H2’s, H3’s, and main points each blog post talks about so you know what to aim for when trying to create a better one.

Another way of gathering relevant information is to type your keyword into YouTube and watch videos relating to your topic.

There are always unique videos on YouTube that provide more valuable information than most search engines since YouTube creators don’t have time to convert their videos into blog posts. And if you use this information, it’ll give you an edge over your competition.

Brainstorming can also help with this step.

Once you’ve immersed yourself in relevant information, it’s time to take a break and allow your subconscious to do the heavy lifting.

Step 2: Step Away And Let Your Subconscious Do The Work

Do you ever notice that you never get an idea when you’re actively thinking about it? It always comes to you when you’re thinking about something completely unrelated. 

Most people get ideas when they’re;

  • Taking a shower
  • Walking
  • Trying to fall asleep
  • Meditating.

This is because when you’re doing these activities, you’re relaxed and stress-free which is an essential state of mind when trying to come up with ideas during the creative process.

Another reason why you should take a break from work is that it allows your subconscious to care for your problem. But you might be thinking, “What’s so special about the subconscious mind?”

The subconscious mind is like a big storeroom that stores all your instincts, urges, desires, and memories that are beyond the desire of your waking awareness.

One could compare your subconscious mind to the part of an iceberg below water. And like an iceberg, so much more exists below the surface and when you take a break, you allow this bigger part of your consciousness to solve the problem for you.

Some might call this the incubation stage. It works well if you feel like you’re stuck in a creative rut.

Once you’ve taken a break from actively thinking about your problem, you’ll experience that “aha” moment sooner or later.

Step 3: Experience The “Aha” Moment

The “aha” moment is what every creative person dreams of. And if you’ve followed the previous 2 steps, experiencing this moment of realization isn’t as hard as you might think. Most people call this the illumination stage.

During the illumination stage, your brain connects the dots perfectly between two ideas and you think to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of this earlier?” 

You’ve probably got this idea while doing something completely unrelated like showering, watching a movie, or meditating. Exercise and creativity also go hand in hand.

And in this step of the creative process, you need to write it down as soon as you can because if anything distracts you, that idea will be long forgotten. That’s why I like to carry a notepad around wherever I think ideas might come to life.

And nothing is worse than knowing you had the perfect idea, but it slipped your mind.

Once you’ve written down your idea, it’s time to start working on it since ideas are nothing without action.

If you need help, consider free writing.

Step 4: Start Doing The Hard Work

Now that most of the creative thinking is done, it’s time to put in the work. Personally, writing content is by far the easiest step in the entire process and that might sound weird since most writers struggle with transferring ideas from their heads onto a figurative sheet of paper.

And the two biggest reasons why writers struggle with this is;

  1. They didn’t do enough research
  2. Or they’re experiencing writer’s block.

Luckily for us, both problems are easily solved.

First, if you didn’t do enough research on the topic you’re writing about, you’ll obviously struggle with writing your blog post since your audience probably understands the topic better than you. If this is you, simply do more research. And unless you’re writing about rocket science, medicine, or advanced technologies, spending an hour or so reading blog posts and watching videos relating to your keyword usually does the trick.

But the most common problem writer’s face is called writer’s block. It’s so widespread, that they even came up with a name for it.

And I’m surprised that this is such a common problem because it has an effortless solution. Simply write without editing or judging your work.

The biggest reason people experience writer’s block is that they expect themselves to write a perfect first draft and anything else they delete. Although it would be nice to write a perfect first draft, it’s completely unrealistic.

Instead, allow your first draft to be terrible and the best way of doing this is by writing your entire post without making a single edit. This gets you into a state of flow within a few minutes and it’ll feel like you’re in heaven.

Once you’ve completed the first draft, you can edit and delete anything that doesn’t make sense.

Step 5: Ask For Feedback And Improve

You never know how good your blog post is until you’ve gotten an unbiased second opinion. We writers tend to only look at the positives and completely ignore the areas where we can improve. But instead of fearing constructive criticism, embrace it since it’s an opportunity to grow and better not only your article but your skills as a writer.

You can send your draft to a few writing friends and see what they think about it. This allows you to adjust your creative work according to your reader’s needs. And if you don’t have writing friends, feel free to message some writers you follow on social media and see if they’re willing to provide you with constructive criticism.

Final Word On The Creative Process

The creative process can be a boring, mentally challenging, and sometimes downright scary journey. You’re left on your own to create something from scratch and if you don’t have a reliable system to follow, it can be a nightmare. 

But if you follow the 5 steps listed above, the creative process that takes you from thought to final draft will become a breeze.

Creative Processs: FAQs

How Do I Increase Creative Performance?

The easiest way to increase creative performance is to run around the neighborhood and take a shower. Exercise is shown to increase creative performance since it promotes the growth of a special protein called BDNF.
And jumping in the shower relaxes your body and mind which is essential for increasing creative performance.

Where Do I Find Inspiration?

Inspiration can be found by watching videos about the topic you’re writing about, changing your environment, spending some time in nature, or learning a new language. These activities occupy your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to look for ideas.

[Interview] Managing the Creative Process with michael Gelb

How can you unlock creative thinking? What would it take to think like Leonardo da Vinci?

One man with answers to those questions is New York Time best-selling author Michael Gelb.

Michael is the author of over a dozen books about creativity, innovation and leadership, including the best-seller How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.

His latest book is called The Healing Organization: Awakening the Conscience of Business to Help Save the World.

Prior to its release, I caught up with Michael. In this interview, he explains:

  • Why every creative and business owner should give something back
  • How you can think like Leonard da Vinci
  • Where he gets ideas for his books
  • How you can unlock creative thinking
  • How side-pursuits, like Tai-Chi and Qigong inform his creative process

And lots more

Listen now

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  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.