By Stella Melina

Lately, I have been feeling a little uninspired artistically. Part of me sees this as a terrible, boring state to be in while another part of me is content to just sit back and ride this wave of nothingness. It got me thinking about the creative process, its ebbs and flows, and the fact that I am still learning so much about how to be within this journey.

I love feeling inspired by fresh ideas, new music, my surroundings, interesting people and new learning. It motivates me to keep going, creating, and planning. It can feel like a bit of a high so when I encounter moments where the energy feels flat and I can’t seem to find inspiration from my usual sources then I get worried. My brain starts to go nuts saying things like “What if that’s it? What if I will never, ever feel inspired again or motivated to create another great piece or conquer a new art form?” It’s crazy! Seriously. I have learned not to give these thoughts too much weight because you know what? It’s a process and this is just a part of that process!

Time and time again, I have encountered this (perceived) barrier but it’s always temporary and in my opinion, a necessary part of being creative. It’s taken me some time to become familiar with this process and to find my own way within it. For most of my adult life, my day job has been in the financial industry and there is not much room for creativity there (at least in the traditional and legal sense). Once I started delving more into art, drawing, and especially dance and choreography, a whole new world opened up to me and my approach to creating started to develop and change. As I reflected on all that I have learned through this process I wanted to share some lessons that have stood out.

1. Everyone has Creative Potential

Growing up, creativity was not encouraged at home. I come from hardworking, practical, immigrant parents that were more concerned about surviving in a new country than putting their children in art or ballet classes. As kids, this forced me and my siblings to come up with various ways to entertain ourselves with the little we had. So what did we do? We spent lots of time outside in nature, read stacks of books, created our own dance moves, came up with crazy games to play, listened to different types of music, and foraged for materials to build houses for our Barbies! We became very adept at problem solving and that is how creativity starts!

We can all look for innovative ways to solve a problem or develop an idea in our lives. Once you have this problem defined or you understand what you are trying to accomplish then you are set up for the next stage in the creative process. Yes, there are stages and…

2. Creativity is a Process!

I used to naively think that people were just born artists. Perhaps that is true for some but I strongly believe that creativity is a skill and a process that if honed over time, can become second nature. Once I realized it takes work, preparation, and time to become more creative and to let it flow more easily then I was able to get over the misconception that people are born knowing how to express their creativity. Every one of us has a different point of view and life experience from which to pull and this uniqueness combined with the process ends in innovative results! With that being said, understand that…

3. It’s not a Linear Process

This can be said about so many things in life. Very rarely do journeys follow a linear path. In your mind it may look like this:       CPmap           Yup, there will definitely be twists and turns and you may even have to start over (a few times) but each step of the way lends to the final result. There are stages to this process and depending on who you talk to, it can be anywhere from 4-10 stages.

           I will break it down to 5 stages:

  1. Preparation & Insight – You discover what you are seeking or the problem that needs solving
  2. Inspiration – You gather information, saturate your brain and imagination with ideas
  3. Incubation – Let the ideas soak in, brainstorm, talk about it, sleep on it, and dream about it. Let your unconscious run with the information.
  4. Insight – The Ah-Ha moment! The solution appears and you gain clarity.
  5. Verification – Implementing your solution. Experimenting with it. Does it work? Perhaps you need to go back to one of the previous stages (or all of them)?

It’s important to make peace with the fact that each time the process will be different but this is what makes it all so interesting and…

3. It’s Fun!

I have always considered myself to be very results oriented. It’s a great trait to have but not if you try and skip from point A to Z without thoroughly exploring your options and other ideas. I was always so quick to just get to the result and get to it fast. I just wanted to be done already and have the final result wrapped up in a pretty bow just waiting for me. Ha ha! Yeah right! And while this may work for my day job in finance, it is actually quite the disservice in a creative environment.

I have learned so much about myself and others during the creative process. I have learned to trust myself more, to be more present and patient with myself, and also to explore other art forms and ideas that I never would have turned to before. The discovery, curiosity, and experimentation become like a cool game you can play and if you approach it from a frame of mind that is focused on having fun then guess what? It actually becomes fun! I have met so many interesting people and l have finally learned to enjoy the journey, learn at each stage, and the results just end up being the icing on the cake!

4. It Can’t be Forced

Fun can’t be forced and neither can creativity. While you can have your structure set in place, you can prepare, gather information/ideas, and brainstorm, in the end, you cannot force creative ideas. It can be incredibly frustrating and for me, infuriating but this is where it becomes a bit mysterious and magical! After putting in all the work and letting the ideas incubate, your imagination and intuition suddenly come up with some amazing stuff! I’ve learned not to question it and to just sit back and let it come to me. Oftentimes it happens when I haven’t thought about it in a few days or upon waking from a dream or while washing dishes. Trying to force it will only push it further away. Do the work and then let it come to you!

5. Inspiration Can be Found Anywhere!

This may sound a bit cliché but it’s true. Oftentimes, I feel stuck or as if I am floating in a never-ending sea of blandness. Ugh. I am learning that this can come and go for various reasons. For me, it’s often because I am feeling overwhelmed and tired. Perhaps I am not taking care of myself or sleeping enough. Or maybe my creativity well is empty and it’s time for me to step back, rest and refill the well so to speak with new ideas and inspiration.

It’s also very easy for me to get comfortable in my routines, hanging out with the same people, visiting the same coffee shop, etc. While I need certain structure and routine in my life, it also tends to close me off to new ideas and ways of looking at the world. It’s important to create a balance within the two and I aim for structure but with flexibility and openness. Later I will talk about ways to get inspired and where to seek inspiration but for now, focusing on the present and noticing what is currently around you can also be very invigorating!

I hope this is helpful to you as it is has been for me. I would love to hear feedback on your experience with the creative process. Below are a couple of books that have been extremely helpful on this journey.