Despite the many attempts to codify the creative process, it is as surprisingly individualistic as it is human. John Irving, author of iconic works like The Cider House Rules, describes his creative process as writing the conclusion before the beginning. He spends a year or more developing a story, the plot, and a set of characters in his head, writing nothing down, until he has the whole in mind. Then he writes the final paragraph. Then and only then does he start actually putting words down on paper going from beginning to end. His description of the writing process is a fascinating view into the creative act, most fascinating for me because I do it so differently.
I come up with an idea, often in the quiet mind time of the morning shower or the last thoughts as I slow my mind on the way to sleep. It is usually a blurb of an idea, often captured in a few words or a sentence or two. Never more than that. I repeat it over and over again to myself so that I will remember it, because my memory is notoriously terrible. I sometimes work on that idea for a few days, coming back to it, testing whether I still like it, adding a few connections to it, but rarely carrying it much further. I basically write that sentence of two on my brain and hold it there until I have the inclination or the time to actually develop it, compose it. For I am most fascinated not with the original idea but with what will become of it, where it will go, what it will develop into when I start keying it in for real. To me, the thrill is in discovery. It is in running the experiment and finding the result. It is in seeing the working invention. It is in printing the beautiful picture that I have tweaked and messed with. So I find writing not a painful demanding activity but a creative thrilling one that I take joy in. For I never quite know where it will go or what it will produce. I suppose it is the reason I so love asking “What if…” in our spreadsheets. What does your creative process look like? I just learned more about mine!