Understanding Phase One of the Creative Process

phase one creative process.jpg

In today’s creativity coaching mini session we are diving into a bit more detail about the first phase of the creative process - the imagination or concept development phase.

As a quick review, remember the creative process occurs in 3 phases:

  • Phase I - imagine/develop concept

  • Phase II - search/acquire materials

  • Phase III - create/execute techniques

Phase I of the creative process, as it relates to creating handmade items, is all about the idea.

Regardless which art form you create within, everything begins with a concept or the “thing” you imagine creating. This phase includes development of the concept as well, meaning the general characteristics of the item are worked out.

It’s not simply

IDEA: wildflower seed favors

but rather

IDEA: Bloom Stix

biodegradable wildflower seed
favors using decorative paper straws
that can be cut or torn open

Phase I: Limitations

Phase I of the creative process is where it all begins and it has no limitations… anything is possible.

But wait!

Everyone says, “You are only limited by your imagination.” So isn’t an individual’s imagination a limitation of Phase I?

No, not really. Here’s why:

Imagination is inherit in all of us. It is, in part, what makes us so unique compared to the other life forms (plants, animals, protozoa, etc) we coexist with.

Imagination helps drive our development as human beings from very early in life. It isn’t simply related to play or art but rather influences our wants, our desires and our motivations throughout our lifetime.

Imagining how good a cookie will taste pushes a baby to scoot across the floor. Just the same, imagining all that we might accomplish drives us as adults to pursue certain careers.

It is true that some people are more imaginative than others, but rather than seeing imagination as a limitation through comparison, it is better to see it as setting each individual’s baseline. This means every person can reach their own best potential within the parameters set by their imagination… which, in its truest sense, is not a limitation.

Phase I: Brain & Body Function

Phase I of the creative process relies on the brain for memory & abstract thinking, occurring in the temporal lobes and frontal lobes respectively. These allow you to draw from experience {memory} and to formulate ideas pertaining to objects not actually physically present {abstract thinking}.

Because this phase relies solely on the brain, outside factors which affect brain function can directly impact Phase I. Factors such as medications, alcohol, sleep deprivation & depression all modify brain function in the frontal & temporal lobes and therefore potentially modify Phase I of the creative process.

This is why a holistic approach to understanding and improving creativity is so important. Your mental & physical health play a role in every phase of the creative process, but they are particularly influential during the first phase.

Phase I: Focus

The focus of Phase I is on the overall design concept & on the message or feeling you wish to convey through your creation. Factors such as function, style, color & scale come into play.

For example:

IDEA: Bloom Stix - Wildflower Seed Favors

FOCUS: natural biodegradable materials,
easy to transport, simple to open,
safe for all ages, fun, colorful

The more generalized focus of Phase I serves as a guide for navigating Phase II of the creative process, namely searching for & acquiring the materials needed to create your imagined item.

Phase I: Main Takeaway

Phase I of the creative process is a dynamic phase in that it expands and constricts as you progress through life. This is not only due to fluctuating brain function, as we touched on before, but also due to your ever-changing life & artistic experiences.

Phase I is very responsive, eager to expand when fed properly and quick to constrict when starved. It is the phase most within your control so…

Do right by your imagination and it will do right by you!


learn more about the creative process: