Your Creative Process

…and the I-5

Have you ever thought about your creative process? Or are you looking at me like a deer in headlights?

What’s a creative process? I don’t have one! I can’t even find the time to get in there and create anything let alone have a “process!”

OK, Fair point! I hear you.

Creative Devil’s Advocate

But – Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment.

What if I told you that you not only HAVE a process, but you’re in a stage of it RIGHT NOW!

I’m not talking about the process of getting a single piece done. That’s your project and it has its own plan.

I’m talking about your own personal style of approaching your creativity in general. It’s a holistic process, and all creators have one.

To be fair, not everyone realizes they have one, or if they do, they don’t necessarily like it.

That stupid video on TikTok you just watched about people VS. cartoons?

For a little while – I approve! Cuz – you’re incubating!!

Nuf said. Let’s talk about what the “creative process” is and how it encourages completion of any creative endeavor.

The Creative Process

A creative process is the method you use to develop your creative “thing.” That might include all the usual suspects: music, art, design, architecture, graphic arts, writing…the list goes on. But it can also be used when setting goals, making decisions, and solving problems.

The process usually starts with allowing ideas to flow, without judgement, and capturing them on some kind of list. This is normally followed by some form of not-so-kind assessment of the ideas. (I see you, Imposter Syndrome!! LOL)

There are also rounds of research, stalling, implementation, more stalling, and refinement of those ideas.

You may still be saying – “Uuhhh, no I don’t recognize any of that, except for the stalling part!” Stay with me –

The creative process has five predictable steps. Predictable yes, but NOT necessarily linear. And this is one of the MOST important things to take away from today’s talk.

You may go back and forth between the steps as you bring your ideas to life. You may be all-over-the-place or stuck in one place for quite a while.

NOW does it sound familiar?

I thought so!

~That trip to the fridge you just made? Stuck

~That buzz through Amazon to find a dinosaur shaped taco holder? Super important!

~And that TikTok video I mentioned earlier? Need I say more?

You’re INCUBATING right now! And that’s part of the process. (As long as you don’t incubate so long that you cook the egg! :-0)

The Five Stages of a Creative Process

So, let’s work through the five stages! I have lovingly dubbed them the I-Five. And just like any good highway or road, there are more speed zones, construction, round-abouts, and off ramps than you can count!


We’ll talk about inspiration first because this is what a lot of people get excited about. This is when all those wonderful ideas bubble up and you can’t wait to get started. Or maybe NOT! You can also find this stage rather difficult because there are so many choices, nothing sounds good, or possible! Never-the-less, this is when you get ready to bring those ideas to life. You make lists and think of all the cool things you could do. You get prepared, maybe buy a few supplies, and clear out a small space to get started.

Then reality hits. You have these ideas but…

“Which one do I choose? Am I good enough to do this? What if I’m not? Gads! I’ll make a fool of myself. And there are so many people out there who are better than me! OK, I need to take a step back and think about this for a sec!”

And think we do! Sometimes for days, weeks, or months on end!


Taking time away from your ideas isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is the incubation stage – when you let your ideas marinate for a while. This is where self-care comes into play. You are allowed to let your ideas sit for a while but that is not the same as leaving them unattended! During this time of incubation, make sure you are getting enough rest, good nutrition, and some exercise. If you’re anything like me, when I do get to the final stage, I can sometimes let my self-care slide. So, it’s important to note that you can come back here when necessary!

An important caveat here: Don’t use this as an excuse to procrastinate! See THIS article if you need a little help with that!

It is here that you let go of your ideas and let them build in the background. You still need to show up to your space. You must still commit to your craft even if all you’re doing is perusing that beautiful list and sorting through supplies. Because when the muse strikes in the next stage, and she will, you’ll need to be ready and present!


That “AHA” moment! All of a sudden, you get that intuitive understanding of your creative ideas and start to get excited. You almost can’t wait to get started. There are still some decisions to make, but you are ready and energized.

All right now! Hold up! Don’t go leaping clean off the cliff just yet! We don’t want to overwhelm ourselves! But DO feel the excitement and anticipation.

Some call this stage illumination, as if you where to shine a bright light on these great ideas of yours, and your intentions became clear. There’s still a lot of work ahead, but it is here that you begin to feel ready! Cuz here’s the deal. You still have a list – of more than one thing – and you still need to choose…


And here is where you do just that! This is the assessment stage, where you look at all those things you want to do and pick the one that speaks to you the most! Here you assess and select your next creative project.

There are several methods that can help you prioritize and choose your next project. That’s a topic for another day. But for this limited space, know that there is a time in your creative process where you do that, and it will feel natural.

Sometimes that choice will be due to a deadline, sometimes by the availability of materials, and sometimes it is due to simple DESIRE! Listen to your own mind and body. It will tell you what you most want to do next!

And then begin…


This is where you dive into the actual creation. This is the execution stage of the creative process. This is where the rubber meets the road, and you begin the work.

Now remember, I said the path wasn’t linear. You may find that after beginning, you need to make a U-turn and go back an exit or two. Sometimes new assessments need to be made along the way, or you may need to go all the way back to incubation if your project hits a roadblock. Take some time, figure it out, and then get back to it!

Now can you see that you actually DO have a creative process? Can you see how it applies to more than just a painting or a song?

Over to You…

As you can see, the process is more of a looped highway interchange than a straightforward path. This is creativity after all, and we should expect to change course and break a few rules along the way.

The important thing is that you can’t really thrive unless you take care of yourself. This is all about self-care for the creative. The five stages of the creative process are fluid, and they relate to and inform each other. Understanding them and using them leads to creative achievement. So, take note of where you are in the process, and know that you are right where you need to be. Take some time to assess and move forward when you’re ready.

Hop into the comments below and tell me where you are in the creative process. What stage do you have the most trouble with? And, what things can you do to move forward through the process?

Join me LIVE on my Facebook page, Virginia Leigh Studio, at 3:00 pm Central every Wednesday and we’ll chat about this. I’d love to hear from you.

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