The Cycle of Creativity and How to Ride It

cyclist
By Mary Jaksch

It sounded an excellent plan, no doubt, and very neatly and simply arranged. The only difficulty was, she had not the smallest idea how to set about it.~ Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland

Who is in charge of your creativity? Are you?

Or is your inspiration like a wellspring that flows one moment and stops the next – without you being able to control it?

The good news is that we can learn to be consistently creative.

The trick is…
Yes, there is a trick. But before I say more about the cycle of creativity and how to ride it, let me tell you what prompted this post.

I’ve just come through a week of low creativity. It’s no surprise really, as I’ve participated in a full-on tango festival and am now at home with my partner, my cat, and three lively friends who are staying with us – all of whom clamor for my attention [sigh].

Creativity? Zilch, zero, nada, nichts.

Yes, it can be difficult to create in the midst of a demanding life.

(I dream of organizing a writing retreat on a tropical island where we can write for hours, swim in the warm sea, watch the sun go down as we sip Margaritas and share with each other. Anyone want to join me??)

woman-on-beach-407

Ah, well – back to reality…

In the last few days I’ve been researching theories of creativity in order to learn how to stay creative in a busy life.  Read on to see what I found.

On my search, I stumbled across a model of the creative process called Directed Creativity which was developed by Paul E. Plsek. His model showed me that we can achieve consistent creativity, and how to do it.

Plsek’s model shows creativity as a cycle:

directed-creativity-cycle

He divided the creative process into four phases:

Preparation, Imagination, Development, and Action.

Phase 1: Preparation

This is the start of the creative cycle where we prepare for new ideas.

Living with it

As creative people, we live in the same world as everyone else. But there is a difference. As Plsek says:

Creative thinking begins with careful observation of the world coupled with thoughtful analysis of how things work and fail.

Observation

When we begin to observe our experience, creativity is triggered.

For example,  the moment I started to be interested in my lack of creativity -  instead of bemoaning it – inspiration started to happen.

Analysis

As writers we are our own guinea pigs. When we start to look deeply into what we experience, we prepare the ground for imagination.

Phase 2: Imagination

This is the phase of inspiration and creative action.

Time in

I’ve added ‘time in’ to Plsek’s theory although it was was coined by Professor Tal-Ben Shahar who is a leading researcher of Positive Psychology. ‘Time in’ means a time of silent reflection. It’s  a time when we allow the mind to be a blank page.

Generation

Generating ideas means the active work of creativity through using brain storming, mind maps, or other techniques in order to come up with something new.

Harvesting

Harvest is a joyous time. Think of farmers harvesting wheat fields. The wheat is cut, put through the thresher, gathered into sacks. And the straw is bailed and stored as fodder for hard times.

As writers, we need to harvest our fresh ideas. That is, we need to write. We need to bring our thoughts onto the page.

Phase 3: Development

In the writer’s cycle of creation, the phase of development means editing. We’ve got words on the page. We have a rough draft. Now it’s time to shape what we’ve written.

Enhancement

Editing means enhancing. We look at what we’ve written from the reader’s point of view and try to improve it.

Evaluation

The final evaluation looks at the big picture, as well as the details. Questions I ask here are: “Have I said what I wanted to say?” or “Have I developed my ideas clearly?” and  “Is my spelling correct?”

Phase 4: Action

As a writer, ‘action’ means sharing your writing with others.

Implementation

The final task of creativity is to give life to our idea. As a blogger, implementation means publishing a post. It means formatting the post, finding a suitable image, and so on – until you finally (gulp) press the ‘publish’ button.

The act of implementation is the end of the cycle of creativity. But it leads seamlessly to the beginning.

We live with what we’ve written. Maybe we read comments, or we get other feedback. Or we simply test what we’ve written against what we experience.

Immediately the cycle begins again.

So what does this cycle of the creativity teach us about being creative in a busy life?

There are three important points to remember:

  1. Each phase of the creative cycle is important for consistent inspiration.
  2. For example, my mistake this week was to skip the first two phases, Preparation and Imagination, and go straight to Harvesting. That’s something we do when we’re short of time and stressed, don’t you think? But it doesn’t work – duh.

  3. Start your creativity from where you are.
  4. Any experience can lead to inspiration. In my case, the moment I began to be interested in my problem with creativity, inspiration was triggered.

  5. ‘Time in’ is crucial to inspiration.
  6. ‘Time in’ means allowing ourselves not to know. It’s a moment of spacious emptiness where the mind can let go of preconceived ideas.

Let’s go back to the beginning:

Who is in charge of your creativity? Are you?

When we understand the cycle of creativity and complete each of the four phases – Preparation, Imagination, Development, and Action before moving on to the next – inspiration happens naturally.

Each of the phases prepares the next – and the wheels of inspiration keep on turning.

That’s how to ride the cycle of creativity.

I’m interested to know how you manage to be creative in a busy life. What works for you? Any suggestions? Tips? Please share in the comments.

Mary Jaksch is Chief Editor of Write to Done. You can read more articles by Mary on Goodlife ZEN. Get her free Ebook “Overcome Anything” here or grab a feed.

Enjoy these related posts:

How to Squeeze Writing Inspiration From Every Experience

Zen Power Writing: 15 Tips on How to Generate ideas and Write with Ease

7 Easy Ways to Energize Your Creative Writing Powers

How to Use a Genius Tool for Writers: Mind Maps

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17 Responses to “The Cycle of Creativity and How to Ride It”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. janice says:

    Glad you’re back!

    This was a beaut. I love the way you manage to take such huge concepts and create a post that’s succinct, very practical and useful, and a pleasure to read.

    I stay creative by seeing my whole life as a work of art. Everything we do is creative, from how we dress and the way we arrange our meal tables and cook, to the plants we choose to have in our gardens. Part of creation is focusing on and rearranging what we love and are led to, what we’re inspired by.

    You just need to look at nature to see that it doesn’t have to be hard work. Bees keep the world alive by being attracted to flowers. Birds ‘blog’ and help create trees by eating berries and doing their business all over the place. Tiny streams help create oceans. Moments of love and lust turn into families.

    I see it a bit like this: be present, mindful and as open as a child; embrace synchronicity; love the details; distil the essence of what you’re experiencing so that others can feel what you felt and it becomes universal; tidy and mop up a bit after inspiration has overflowed. Reach out and offer what you’ve been given to others.

    Thanks, Mary!

  2. Writer Dad says:

    Mary, can you email me a time and date for that writing retreat? I’ll totally join you. : > )

  3. Hi Mary, hope all is well!

    Great post! I’m always amazed at ppl that can be creative on demand. Not everyone definitely, but a few can.

    Your tips on managing creativity in a busy life are so practical!

    For me, I guess a big part is to try not be embellished by the hustle of non-life issues. I call those non-life because there are issues that we get wrapped up with that are really not essential for a happy life and yet we choose to dance with them.

    Instead I try to focus on real-life issues and that’s where I find inspiration.

    Nice Piece :)

  4. Really interesting model on creativity. Thanks for posting it and illustrating it with your insights. I want to believe that I’m fully in charge of my creativity, but I’m not sure if I am… I’ll have to give this some thought. Thanks so much for the tips. They’re awesome!

  5. Tedel says:

    Creativity does not have a process, period.

  6. Paul Gatti says:

    Ciò che scrivi è molto interessante. Peccato solo non saper leggere l’inglese.

  7. Mary, the information you provided was wonderful. It sparked my own creativity to remember the three stages of energy through the Cycle of Creativity.

    I just finished writing about it on my blog (of course, mentioning your article and giving credit). You may want to visit:

    http://abundance.blogs.com/pronfwriter/

    @ProNFwriter (Twitter)

  8. Van says:

    I recently started a new blog, a real and virtual afghan in which each knitted square corresponds to a story in the blog. I have been using the knitting part as a kind of ecstatic play in which the story generating goes on. It takes about two hours to choose yarn and knit a square. Once it is finished I must sit down and write the story, and I use the incentive that once it is posted I can choose yarn and move onto a new square. Obviously this creativity cycle is multi-layered because there is more than one process going on, but I’m finding it very fertile. It has also brought the observation and analysis steps into clearer focus for me. Thanks for this post. It gives me some great insight into this exciting thing that’s going on. I will use observation and analysis to figure out how I can sustain other more difficult writing projects!

  9. Oke says:

    I guess I never really think about it to this extreme. For me I get inspiration from everywhere, just as you stated in your post, however, there is a time to rest and just be easy about life all together.

    I usually get tons of ideas for blog post, essays, short stories, and mini stories from my novel through observation of events around me, and whatever I read. However, I from time to time get burned out and have to resort to doing nothing. Doing nothing helps me figure out what is important and not. When this is done it gives me the chance to be totally honest with myself on the direction I want to go with whatever I am writing.

  10. Hi Mary,

    In my mind, creativity is a way of life. Just as a professional has to be an expert in their field, a writer has to be the same with the genre he/she chooses to write about via their blog or whatever. The only to do that is to just be knowledgeable on the topic and to have an open mind. So I am with Janice on this one because it truly is a matter of opening your eyes to what is around you and recognizing the inspiration that is there.

  11. I’m in for the writing retreat. If you need any help planning let me know. If nobody else is interested we can go together. Sounds great!

  12. Mary Jaksch says:

    Hi friends – the writing idea was an idea that suddenly shot through my head. But it would actually be a fantastic thing, right? I’ll have a chat to Leo about it.

    Tess, your on! I’ll definitely ask for your help.

    Thanks for your comments on creativity. I’m fascinated by the whole idea of inspiration. My tagline on Goodlife ZEN says “Practical inspiration. For a better life”.

    Practical inspiration. Yes, for me the emphasis is on ‘practical’. I think creativity isn’t just something that happens to us. We can meet it half way!

    Let’s talk more about this when we’re sipping Margaritas at sundown, eh?

  13. janice says:

    That retreat could be real?! Lend me lots of money for the plane then count me in!

  14. J.Morgan says:

    I totaly get it.

    My world revolves around my inspiration waves. It comes in then leaves me on dry land to gasp for breath. I’ve been trying to break the cycle myself and so far it has gotten better, I think your advise will help too.

    Thanks.

  15. ken lau says:

    Hi Mary,
    So glad to read your blog. I am so happy to see that you are taking the cycle of creativity with big interest. I am also doing in service training to teachers in my country Malaysia trying to get our teachers here to make their lessons interesting inorder to get the kids to be more creativity themseleves.
    Thanks for the sharing. It indeed helps alot.

  16. Van Waffle says:

    Mary, this model fascinates me because I can visualize it. I noted your comment about observation and remembered it recently after a few days of intense focus. I posted about the experience in my more personal blog: http://vaneramos.livejournal.com/708061.html Thanks for the insight.