A Five-Step Process of Creativity

A Five-Step Process of Creativity

After studying the state of flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi turned his attention to the creative process. Instead of researching in the laboratory, he interviewed famous artists, scientists, authors, and others to analyze major creative breakthroughs. He refers to their industry-shifting contributions as Creativity with a capital C.

The authors and poets interviewed included Anthony Hecht, Madeleine L’Engle, May Sarton, and Robertson Davies. No slackers in this group.

After interviewing these luminaries about their experiences, Csikszentmihalyi analyzed what they had in common and arrived at a model of the creative process in five key phases:

1. Preparation – immersing oneself in the field and its issues
2. Incubation – time in which ideas churn “below the threshold of consciousness”
3. Insight – the “aha” moment when inspiration strikes
4. Evaluation – the process of determining whether the insight is worth pursuing
5. Elaboration – working with the insight

How can we combine this understanding of the creative process with our two writing selves? The five-step creative process is a kind of handoff between the Scribe (with focused attention) and the Muse (with open attention).

1. Preparation – the Scribe researches and works on the subject
2. Incubation – the Muse looks at what the Scribe has done
3. Insight – the Muse chimes in with an idea
4. Evaluation – the Scribe figures out whether it’s worth pursuing
5. Elaboration – the Scribe does the work to make it happen

Janzer, Anne. The Writer’s Process: Getting Your Brain in Gear (p. 43-45). Cuesta Park Consulting. Kindle Edition.
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