Untangling the Creative Process

Some ground rules to help you turn chaos into clear ideas.

Diana Lillicrap 2.24.2017


Creativity can feel chaotic and confusing at times, seeming like nothing usable will come out of the mess.

I know this not because I have two kids who make big messes when they are being their most creative, but because I live it every day in a job that requires a bit of chaos to get to real clarity. So how do you tame that chaos and turn it into clarity? It requires a thoughtful process that allows you to explore and simmer ideas. And then, when it’s time to make sense of it all, it’s best if you have a few ground rules in place.

  1. Have an objective. Always start with your goals. Knowing what you are trying to accomplish will keep you motivated and focused on results throughout the full process and give you a measure to use when determining if the solution worked at the end.
  2. Set a deadline. Having a set end date will keep you focused on a final goal and making a commitment to wrap-up your creative process by a certain point is key. Otherwise it’s too easy to let the creative process run on and on without ever reaching true clarity.
  3. Look for themes and connections. After you’ve immersed yourself in the problem and generated a lot of ideas don’t get stuck in the weeds. Step back and look for common themes and inspiring connections that have new meaning and bigger potential.
  4. Create criteria for sorting. Every creative project will have an appropriate set of evaluation points. List them out—for example, is it functional, is it feasible to accomplish with the resources available, is it memorable? Sorting and evaluating with the right criterial will make getting to clarity go smoother and faster.
  5. Trim the fat. Not all creative ideas are good. It’s ok to cut the bad ideas and narrow your list to only the best. And, once you’ve decided to get rid of something, move quickly to see it gone. A swift and determined approach will make finding clarity a reality and keep you on track with your deadline.

In the end, you’ll feel confident that you explored all the angles and experienced the chaos of creativity, but more importantly, you’ll be left with clarity around the best of the best ideas.

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