The Four Stages of the Creative Process

There are many people who seem to assume that an idea marks the beginning of creativity. However, the truth is that many creative ideas don’t simply light up in your head suddenly.

If your goal is to come up with more creative ideas, this will only happen if the necessary circumstances are fulfilled. Inspiration won’t come out of nowhere, so you need to prepare and plan for creativity.

The following are the four stages of the creative process:

First Stage: Preparation

The first stage of the creative process is where you define the need, desire, or problem, and collect data and relating topics as much as possible.

Once you have gathered the necessary information and knowledge, you can read, sort, evaluate, outline, and organize it. You do everything that helps you in moving towards discovering a solution. It is the time for you to fully immerse yourself in the particular problem or topic.

This is also the stage when you should try to absorb as much information as possible to allow these to enter your subconsciousness.

Second Stage: Incubation

Incubation is the stage that involves mental processing of the collected information in the first stage. This information will start churning at the back of your mind. Both your subconscious and conscious minds will be working on the idea. You start to make new connections, cultivate new thoughts, and weed out unnecessary information.

Throughout the stage of incubation, you want to step back a little from the problem or topic and allow your mind to work through and contemplate about potential ideas or solutions. Giving your mind the chance to wonder will lead to better creativity. This stage may last for minutes, weeks, or sometimes, even years.

Third Stage: Illumination

Illumination is the stage in which the idea in incubation suddenly takes shape. It is that profound moment of realization. It often happens when you don’t actively think of a creative idea or solution. Usually, that Eureka or Aha moment occurs just when you are busy with something else such as driving, taking a shower, exercising, or while resting.

An emotional joyous reaction takes place knowing that you have finally discovered the solution or idea that you have long been looking for. What used to be vague has now become clear.

The idea shows up suddenly and a feeling of certainty accompanies it. It is when it seems like all the puzzle pieces have fallen into place. You feel an overpowering impulse to write down the idea or record it.

This stage is usually rather brief and involves a strong rush of insight in a short span of time.

Fourth Stage: Verification

Once a creative idea enters your mind, you want to know whether it will work or not. This is why the last stage of the creative process is evaluation, testing, and hopefully verification of the idea that came to you during the illumination stage.

You should use your critical and analytical thinking skills for vetting your idea. You might have to start all over again if the solution or idea doesn’t work. But, if it is acceptable or only minor changes are necessary, the creative process will be complete.

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