The 4 stages of the creative process
Many times when I speak with people I find them being stuck in one of the stages that I describe below so I wanted to share with you what I believe is the natural way of how things happen.
As you read through the different stages I want you to see if you can recognize where you are at the moment and also become aware of where you might be most of the time because it will help you become more aware of how things will naturally have to unfold from wherever you find yourself in these stages.
Too often I find people dwelling maybe a little bit too long in one stage and some are even stuck there for very long periods because of their lack of self-awareness.
I will call the 4 different stages after the seasons of the year;
Winter, spring, summer and fall.
Let’s begin where I believe every great things starts and has its beginning: From within.
STAGE 1: WINTER
This is a time of quiet reflection and introspection where we go within to receive internal guidance and where we don’t feel like being around other people that much.
It’s winter time and we like to cozy up with books and we might journal and write a lot, we do inner work, walk in nature and enjoy stillness and solitude.
We evaluate things in our lives, review what needs to let go of, what we need and want and so on.
You become clear, you know what you want and what you don’t want anymore.
It’s a very important time because in this period we come to conclusions and decisions and we make choices that will help us move forward and upward in our lives.
It can be a very intense time emotionally – and internally and inwardly very reflective.
Words like resting, connecting with the Truth within you, renewing, letting go and making room describes this phase of the creative process best.
This is where we receive guidance and make important choices (not by taking action but by deciding within) and where we have clear insights and revelations about our life.
STAGE 2: SPRING (New life/aliveness)
Now when you have cleared things for yourself in the wintertime it’s time to take action.
You feel refreshed and renewed, you have new energy and you feel mentally clear (because you did profound inner work in the wintertime phase), and you can now begin developing your ideas that came to you.
You feel more active, ambitious/driven and outward-oriented in terms of ‘doing’ and ready to take on the world.
This is the perfect time to initiate what became clear to you in the wintertime, so this is when you begin to take action and you might even feel super-productive and inspired during the springtime phase (I know I do!).
Words like action, active, enthusiastic and believing in yourself (confidence) describes this phase best.
This is where actions are taken and where things begin to happen because of that.
STAGE 3: SUMMER
Now we move from taking action into relating and interacting with others (we bring ourselves to the world).
We reach out to others and feel more communicative and we feel more loving towards others; we want to share, inspire others and we tend to go out more, meet other people more and socialize.
It’s bonding time, an easy-going time where we are more emphatic and emotionally focused. (On love, community, sharing etc).
It’s productive but in a different way than the previous phase of the creative process because here we take what we gained from going within and from having taken the needed action-steps in the previous stages and we take it out to the world.
We give, we share, we bond, we love, we inspire others, it’s an outgoing energy but in a more relational way rather than pure action-taking.
Words like communication, networking, understanding and care for others describes this phase best.
This is where we reach out to others and we give and share from the heart.
STAGE 4: FALL/AUTUMN (death/endings)
This is reality-check time.
In this phase we go within again and we redo and edit (tweak/improve) the things we did in the previous (outer) action-phase.
We become clear about what worked and what didn’t so we release and let go and we explore new ideas that can improve previous ideas, and we might even get new insights that comes from letting go of what didn’t work.
Here’s where the creative phase reaches its peak; it’s here that it happens finally. You begin to see results and it’s also a time of completions and endings.
(One creative phase has ended and a new is around the corner).
You might edit and polish previous work and redirect yourself where you have gone off path and so on before you move on to the next wintertime.
You get real with yourself in this phase of the creative process.
Things comes up from your subconscious mind that you need to have a closer look at, you might get deep insights into things you need to change or clarify for yourself.
You are preparing yourself for yet another period of quietude and solitude (wintertime).
You clear clutter, you get rid of things, you end relationship that are not working and you might even quit your job that you feel is draining you, things like that.
The words that describe this phase best are “getting real with yourself”, self-love and realignment. You identify problems or issues and you decide to either regain something or you decide to express something, but you do take action and it’s not always easy but it is always necessary.
It’s a creative time, you get inspired easily and you do what you know you need to do so it’s a little bit like a mishmash of all the other phases – this makes it the most creative phase because here’s the culmination of things that has happened since the last winter in your life.
And then when you’re ready, when you have cut your losses so to speak you’re ready to move on to the next wintertime where you then again reassess your life, you look at what your priorities (and values) are and will be in the next new cycle of the creative process.
Here’s what I want to bring up with you because this is what I see in many people; they get stuck in one of these stages.
Here’s a few examples:
Someone who’s stuck in wintertime becomes a navel-gazing hermit.
You become someone who analyses life to pieces and who withdraw more and more from the world and other people. You might become aloof and too detached from your physical reality and even neglect it thinking that the spiritual life is all there is.
Someone who’s stuck in springtime becomes a workaholic who never takes a break.
You become someone who is always doing something, whether it’s actually productive or not; you’re always “busy” and you always say you don’t have time, especially when it comes to meditation and the like (=”spiritual” things).
Someone who’s stuck in summertime becomes too attached to entertainment and never gets anything done.
You become someone who likes to have fun a little too much and too often, or you become too giving to others and neglect yourself and your own needs. Your energy becomes weak (and you risk becoming a doormat) because you don’t take time to nurture yourself, only others (or your ego by feeding it whatever it fancies at the time).
You get the idea.
And if someone is stuck in either one of these stages they never get to the autumn or fall where things comes to a culmination and ending before a new creative cycle begins.
The fall is where you really get into the flow, you feel very much in tune with yourself and life (because you have followed its natural unfolding during the other stages) and you experience lots of creativity and inspiration because of that.
Here’s also where solutions come to you, people and resources find their way to you that can help and support you to the next stage of your life and where you brainstorm and get ideas into place.
The word that really describes this phase is manifestation.
Things fall into place both within you and in your physical life experience.
It’s a time of embodiment and locking things into place and after have done that you are ready to go within again and begin a new cycle of the creative process of life and how it unfolds through the different stages.
So look at where you are at the moment and see how you can jolt yourself into the next stage if you feel you have been in one particular phase a bit too long and you don’t know what to do or how to move forward.
Here are four questions that will help you click into place again with your natural flow regardless of where you find yourself in your own creative process:
(Write the answers down, don’t just think them in your head).
- What do I need to stop doing?
- What do I need to start doing?
- What do I need to do less of?
- What do I need to do more of?
- Who is going to do it?
- And when?
Make a commitment to get back into alignment with your own natural flow by doing what you know needs to be done whether it has to do with you having to slow down and do less or if it’s about you needing to go deep within and connect spiritually with yourself.
Or maybe you see that you have to more sociable with other people, spending more time with friends and family and so on or maybe you come to the realization that you have to stop being a couch potato and waste your life on things like partying too much.
The answers to the four questions are always very clear to us once we ask them and then to actually say it out loud that “I am going to do it and I am going to start doing what needs to be done now, today, right now!”, that’s when life shifts gear and you will feel a sense of progress and forward movement.
Flow will then be felt (as your awareness increases) in all stages because you know the significance of each stage.
You come to realize that they are all equally important and the more we surrender to the low energy days knowing that the high energy days are just around the corner the more enjoyable life becomes.
And the more self-aware you become the more attentive and aware you become about when one phase ends and a new is beginning; you become very aware of the transition time so you come to use each phase efficiently and productively.
It is just as productive to go inward as it is to go outward; both stages are important to honor and to enjoy as much as you can.
When you have a low energy day or period; have them fully and when you are in a powerful go-getter mode, use it to the fullest and don’t let it go to waste by not honoring those days and periods as well.
It’s important to honor both the low and high energy days as both are equally important.
I have taken “Maria-days” now and then for as long as I can remember. Those are the days when I don’t do anything at all other than giving myself rest, love and care.
Those days are important for all of us I believe, days that are only for ourselves.
Days where we don’t do anything; no inner nor outer work but simply just spend some time “being”.
Being lazy and letting everything else take care of itself for a while.
There are times when we’re not inspired to do anything at all and those periods are also a part of the creative process and they happen now and then suddenly; we just know within ourselves when we have such a day.