What is your process for taking an idea all the way through to a finished product?
There’s no simple answer, no magic bullet, no one solution that works one-hundred percent of the time.
Besides, you have to figure out whether or not what you have is really an idea to begin with because my definition of an idea is something that has some life, it has legs, it’s sort of running out the door while you’re still getting your pants on. More often than not, what I have first is a thought not an idea. A thought is something that captures your attention or stirs you up a little. It’s that line you underlined in that book you’re reading. It’s the quote you stumbled across. It’s the photograph that made you lean in. It’s the conversation you keep mulling over. It’s a spark and not much else.
The first step in your process has to be finding a way of fanning that spark into flame, finding your method of turning that thought into an actionable idea. For some people it’s a mood board, an inspiration wall, or a brainstorm. For me, it’s most often writing.
When I start trying to articulate the thing I sometimes discover that all I really have are a few disconnected pieces without enough of the sinewy stuff to make them hang together. The thoughts are not yet an idea. I push and I prod, but I can’t seem to make it make sense anymore. Then it’s time to stop hyperventilating in an attempt to get that ember burning, and just let it die, or go dormant at the very least.
But sometimes the writing begins to take on a life of it’s own. I’m caught up. There may still be big gaps, places where the road between here and there has been washed out, but wherever the road remains I can see riveting scenes and moving moments. Most often, that’s when the thought becomes an idea for me, and the process starts to take care of itself a little bit—not because the way is clear or easy, but because I’m suddenly compelled to follow that thing wherever it may lead. My heart is all wrapped up in it.
So writing is almost always the first step for me.
I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately. And by that I mean that I’ve been staring out the window for long stretches of time, after which I get up and make myself a cup of coffee.
Then I sit down again at my desk and glare at a mostly blank page while I debate for two or three minutes whether or not I should write down the sentence I just thought of because it might be genius or it might be as bad as I’m starting to think it is. Finally, in a glorious 10-minute flurry of activity I write some actual words.
Creativity is, by its very nature, an inefficient process, if it’s a process at all.