Making the Most of Your Creative Thinking Style

It’s no secret that we don’t all approach the creative process in the same way. But the steps of the creative process are pretty consistent: we get an inkling we want to create something; we (deliberately, or haphazardly) generate some ideas around how we might go about doing it; we spend some time developing the idea (20 minutes for a blog entry…20 years for the deep and philosophical, European or Russian-influenced romantic or revolutionary oeuvre…); and finally we implement and send the idea out into the world (“publish blog”). These steps, or ones quite similar to them, have been identified at least since Graham Wallace’s 1926 work on the creative process.

But here’s some news: we don’t all have the same orientation to these different phases. Some steps give us energy, some take energy away. In some of the phases we feel at home, as though we could stay there forever. Others we may avoid. The trick is, in the world of the entrepreneurial artistry, we are pretty much obliged to make it through the cycle if we want to be successful. Here are some tips on how to leverage your strengths and support your weak areas:

Determine your style. It may seem obvious to you, but if you haven’t given it some thought, you may be surprised. Which do you get the most energy from: picking a direction, generating ideas, developing the ideas so they’re fully articulated, or implementing them and sending them into the world?

If you have drawers full of half-started poems, perhaps coming up with ideas is your strong suit. If you keep promising yourself you’re just about done with that composition, but you’ve been saying that since Obama was sworn in, you may be into the development stage. Maybe you’re strong on two, three, or even all four of the steps — that’s possible too.

Surround yourself with others who complement your preferences. Working in an ensemble to mount a new production? If the team is full of people who love to get the work out there, the production may risk being underdeveloped. Draw on the strengths of people whose preferences are different from yours.

Be patient with yourself. If being deliberate about what you want to work on is a complete mystery to you, and you find yourself half-way through a project before realizing it’s not what you wanted to do, make a note of that for the next time. Practice clarifying what you want before you jump in.

Understand that preference is not the same as ability. We may be proficient at all phases of the process, but some steps may kick us around the block before we’re done. Forewarned is forearmed for those more challenging steps.

Stick with it. The rewards of bringing our creative ideas from inklings to openings are worth the effort! They help build momentum for the next time around, and inspire the rest of us to go ahead and consider, conceive of, flesh out and finally…post that blog! (and here I go…)

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