Creativity is a Process


“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes at nine every morning.” – William Faulkner (attributed)

If there’s one thing I know that I know (and I know that I don’t know much), it’s that waiting for creativity to strike is not a good use of time. I figured this out through more first-hand experience than I’d care to admit – but, in total, it’s probably several months’ worth. By this, I mean literally putting something off until I had a “Eureka!” or “A-ha!” moment. How often did they arrive? Not enough to make waiting for them the slightest bit worthwhile.

Rather, I’ve found that doing something is more useful than waiting. If I get started writing, I’m more likely to hit upon the right note through the process than I am if I thought about what the right note was. Take this post for instance. I wrote the title and then left it, wanting to see when and if inspiration would strike (on purpose this time). It did not. So after two days of letting it sit, I simply began to write. Inspiration still didn’t strike, but the process – what you come up with as you right, the edits and emendations and deletions and rephrasings – took over. I rewrote the first paragraph 3 times, and this paragraph twice. (I wrote, then deleted, another line in the first paragraph before writing this one – so we’re at 4 changes to the first paragraph; even if I decide not to go with a particular change, the fact I still sought to test it counts).

This doesn’t just apply to writing. Whether you’re directing a film, programming, composing a song or album, or anything else that requires some creativity, you’re going through a process. You begin with a giant block of marble and slowly chip away at it to find the statue inside. Thankfully, we’re able to make a mistake and rectify it – you don’t get that working with marble.

Of course, that isn’t to say that the result is something you’ll ultimately be satisfied with. Perhaps in the moment, but as you reflect on your work after gaining more experience, you’ll begin to see how you could’ve made it even better. But that’s part of the process, too – learning from your mistakes or making general improvements on prior work. The most difficult thing is accepting that it’s a process. There’s no immediate gratification. The proverbial pen doesn’t flow as smoothly as you’d like. You stumble and fall, or experience some other hitch. But that’s fine. You must continue nonetheless. Trust the process.

In fact, this whole blog is a process. The path, and the result, become clearer with each post. A voice, or something similar, emerges. But if all you do is wait, it remains silent.

Older Post Newer Post