The 10 Stages of the Creative Process

February 20, 2014 — 5 Comments

creativeMaria Papova posted filmmaker Tiffany Shlain’s 10 steps of the creative process.

It is a helpful list in thinking through any of the “creation” projects you are working on.

Whether it is writing, preaching, designing, or vision casting, we all go through these steps.

This summer I plan on building a standing desk and even for this project I have gone through a number of  these steps as I have been envisioning what I want to make.

Tiffany’s list is as follows:

THE HUNCH | Any project starts with a hunch, and you have to act on it. It’s a total risk because you’re just about to jump off a cliff, and you have to go for it if you believe in it.

TALK ABOUT IT | Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your community … they’re the ones who are going to support you on this whole treacherous journey of the creative process, so involve them, engage them.

THE SPONGE | I’m going to tons of art shows, I’m watching a lot of movies, I’m reading voraciously… and I’m just sponging up ideas and trying to formulate my own idea about the subject.

BUILD | I love the world “filmmaker” because it has “maker” in it. My team and I are … building an armature — the architecture for the project.

CONFUSION | Dread. Heart of Darkness. Forest of fire, doubt, fear… [But] as hard as it is — and it is really hard — any project … gets infinitely better after I’ve rumbled with all of my fears.

JUST STEP AWAY | Take a breather — literally just step away from the project… Let it marinate — don’t look at it or think about it.

THE LOVE SANDWICH | To give constructive feedback, always snuggle it in love — because we’re only human, and we’re vulnerable… Set expectations for where you are in the project, then ask questions in a way that allows for “the love sandwich”: First, “What works for you?” Then, “What doesn’t work for you?” Then, “What works for you?” again. If you just ask people for feedback, they’ll go straight for the jugular.

THE PREMATURE BREAKTHROUGH | You’ll find in a project that you’ll have many small breakthroughs — and you have to celebrate those breakthroughs, because they’re ultimately going to lead to the Big Breakthrough.

REVISIT YOUR NOTES | I always do this throughout the project, but especially during that last home stretch… I revisit all my notes and think back, and always find a clue — that missing link that brings it all home.


Many people give up at the hunch stage because they doubt it will work. But Beveridge notes in his 1957 The Art of Scientific Investigation that doubt must be tolerated.

Many people will not tolerate a state of doubt, either because they will not endure the mental discomfort of it or because they regard it as evidence of inferiority.

Another interesting insight is how we come to the hunch. Some people call this intuition. Beveridge offers an articulation of the combinatorial creativity that underlies what we often call intuition. It is not something we do, but something that happens to us. This is another way of putting the phrase, “The shower is when my best thoughts occur.”

The important thing to realize is that the conjuring up of the idea is not a deliberate, voluntary act. It is something that happens to us rather than something we do.

In ordinary thinking ideas continually ‘occur’ to us in this fashion to bridge over the steps in reasoning and we are so accustomed to the process that we are hardly aware of it. Usually the new ideas and combinations result from the immediately preceding thought calling up associations that have been developed in the mind by past experience and education.




Patrick Schreiner

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I teach New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I am married with three children. This blog, against all wisdom, includes anything I am interested in. That includes movies, music, theology, culture, hermeneutics, the Gospels, and politics. Feel free to comment and let me know you are reading or that you have found something helpful. I reserve the right to delete unhelpful or rude comments. Many of these posts are simply things I find interesting and therefore I am not asserting I agree with everything I link to.

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