SAY, FOR EXAMPLE, WRITING A
BLOG POST or CREATING AN AD CAMPAIGN or PREPARING A PITCH or LAUNCHING A NEW PRODUCT or DEVELOPING A LOGO DESIGN or COOKING A DINNER PARTY Every creative process has 5 emotional stages...
2. DOUBT 1. POSSIBILITY 2.
DOUBT 3. AGONY 4. EPIPHANY 5. FINESSE 5 EMOTIONAL STAGES OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS Here’s how to diagnose which stage you’re in...
STAGE 1: POSSIBILITY WHATʼS REALLY
GOING ON You’re coming up with all the easy stuff. You might have some interesting starter ideas, but really, you probably have nothing. WHAT IT FEELS LIKE Fun • Exploration • Free-range thinking WHAT YOUʼRE SAYING TO YOURSELF Here’s a cool idea. Here’s another one. And another. This is pretty fun, and you know what, I’m pretty good. ?
STAGE 2: DOUBT WHATʼS REALLY
GOING ON As you begin to look at your ideas more closely, you realize, um… they’re actually not that great. Doubt begins to set in. And it’s about to get a whole lot worse. The prospect of failure sets in. WHAT IT FEELS LIKE Uncertainty • Feeling lost • Defensiveness • Questioning the process, the expectations, and even yourself. WHAT YOUʼRE SAYING TO YOURSELF This project is unrealistic. The budget is too small. It’s my client’s fault / It’s my boss’s fault / It’s my partner’s fault. ?
STAGE 3: AGONY WHATʼS REALLY
GOING ON The most grueling of all steps in the creative process, this is a red-blooded struggle. It’s a hard. You feel like a hack. You want to quit. WHAT IT FEELS LIKE Torture. WHAT YOUʼRE SAYING TO YOURSELF I’m a hack. I’ve always been a hack and I’m about to be exposed as the hack I really am. Every great idea I’ve ever come up with up to this point was a ﬂuke. Ughhhhh. This seriously sucks. ?
STAGE 4: EPIPHANY WHATʼS REALLY
GOING ON Breakthrough! You’ve done it! You invented a very big and very new idea. While you were feeling emotionally exhausted by the Agony, now instantly you’re elated by the sweet euphoria of success. This makes it all worth it. Something resembling a swagger might begin to emerge. WHAT IT FEELS LIKE A burst of energy • Self-validation • Relief WHAT YOUʼRE SAYING TO YOURSELF This is why I do what I do. Creativity rocks. ?
STAGE 5: FINESSE WHATʼS REALLY
GOING ON As you tweak your initial raw idea, you’re crafting it to be smarter, more strategic, and more purposeful. You’re crafting the best possible expression of your idea. Now your skill and training really begins to shine through, as you hone and reﬁne your concept into the best possible execution. WHAT IT FEELS LIKE Focus • Purposeful engagement • Goal-oriented progress WHAT YOUʼRE SAYING TO YOURSELF What’s my next assignment? ?
IT MAKES SENSE TO LOATHE
THE AGONY, TO WANT TO HURRY THROUGH IT, AND GET ON TO A MORE COMFORTABLE STAGE. PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS IS FUN. PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS IS TERRIFYING. AND PAINFUL. AND ABSURDLY DIFFICULT. But here’s what I want to propose: THE CREATIVE PROCESS FUN TERRIFYING PAINFUL ABSURDLY DIFFICULT
THE AGONY IS WHERE NEW
IDEAS COME FROM. TheAgony is the most important part of the whole process. This is the point in the process when you have a massive opportunity to create something truly new. AGONY IS: the best part. where inspiration lives. where you can do something breathtaking, something the world has never seen. THE ECSTASY.
BORING IDEAS ARE CHEAP. FASCINATING
IDEAS ARE PRECIOUS. Anyone can come up with a bunch of boring ideas. That’s easy. The question is: do you have the tenacity to keep going, to keep pushing through theAgony? Fascinating ideas are never easy. They’re not supposed to be easy. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be so valuable.
ARE YOU SITTING IN THE
THRONE OF AGONY? CRE•ATE (v). to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes. IF YOU CAN EXPECT THAT THERE WILL BE A POINT IN THE PROCESS WHEN YOU FEEL DISCOURAGED, IF YOU CAN ANTICIPATE THE STRUGGLE AND STOP RESISTING, THEN YOU CAN ACTUALLY START TO CREATE.
I GO THROUGH THIS VERY
SAME TORTUROUS, MADDENING, GLORIOUS When I was creating a new speaking video, I went through a% 5 stages of the creative process: 1. Possibility 2. Doubt 3.Agony 4. Epiphany 5. Finesse I was tempted to just hurry and ﬁnish it when things got *ustrating. Yet I wanted it to be rea%y great. So I quit complaining, and embraced the stru+le. AGONY.
THE NEXT TIME YOU FEEL
YOURSELF STRUGGLING IN THE CREATIVE PROCESS, PAUSE FOR A MINUTE. And stop beating yourself up for feeling insecure, because the truth is, just about anyone who’s ever tried to create something big and real and meaningful has stru+led with the fear inherent in this stage. Recognize that now, ﬁna%y, you have the potential to start creating something truly extraordinary. Now you’ve worked through a% the easy ideas. Now is the stage when things can start getting rea%y good.
JUST BECAUSE ITʼS HARD DOESNʼT
MEAN ITʼS WRONG. JUST BECAUSE YOU FEEL LIKE A HACK DOESNʼT MEAN YOU ARE A HACK. IT MEANS THAT NOW, FINALLY, YOUʼRE READY TO CREATE SOMETHING TRULY EXTRAORDINARY.
THE REALITY IS, CREATIVITY IS
SLOPPY AND IMPERFECT. Creativity simply isn’t a rational. It’s sweaty and red-blooded. Tempestuous. It wakes up at 2 am stru+ling whether to tweak a headline one hundredth of an inch, or start over entirely. The best results do not follow a rigid or predictable process.
THE AGONY IS A VALUABLE,
HEALTHY, AND NECESSARY PART OF CREATING ANYTHING WORTHWHILE. AS MUCH AS IT SUCKS, YOU CANNOT SKIP THE AGONY. Look, we all need to trim time and costs. No question.That’s a reality. And on the surface, it might seem like a smart idea to cut out the stage that feels least productive. Yet in our quest to gain efficiencies, we’re losing room to fail and explore. Your results will only succeed to the degree that you’re allowed to fail.
Technology keeps getting faster. But
creativity will always operate on its own timeline. Just because eBooks make it possible to print a book in a few minutes doesn’t mean that the amount of time required to actually write a book — to conceive the idea, to articulate the argument, to craft the language— is any faster.
“I realize we have a
limited timeline, and that we need to crack our solution ASAP. But if we truly want the best result, we can’t shortcut the process so drastica%y that we end up presenting and producing a lame idea.” YOU MIGHT REMIND THEM THAT LAME IDEAS END UP BEING FAR MORE EXPENSIVE. THEY COST AS MUCH TO EXECUTE AS A BRILLIANT IDEA, YET GENERALLY GET PRETTY MEDIOCRE RESULTS. BEFORE THE CREATIVE PROCESS BEGINS, HEREʼS WHAT TO TELL YOUR TEAM (INCLUDING YOUR PARTNERS AND BOSS): HOW TO GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH SPACE TO STRUGGLE IN THE AGONY?
“Let’s build in enough space
in this process to stru+le past the quick and easy ideas, and actua%y bring you something that wi% be persuasive and memorable enough to deliver the results we a% want to achieve on this project.” BEFORE THE CREATIVE PROCESS BEGINS, HEREʼS WHAT TO TELL YOUR CLIENTS: HOW TO GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH SPACE TO STRUGGLE IN THE AGONY? IF YOU CAN ANTICIPATE THAT THE AGONY WILL BE PART OF THE PROCESS, YOU CAN APPROACH IT WITH THE PURPOSE AND RESPECT IT DESERVES.
FOR ALL ITS MADDENING IMPRECISION,
creativity always triumphs. INFORMATION COMES AND GOES. TRANSACTIONS CAN BE OUTSOURCED. TECHNOLOGY BECOMES OBSOLETE. OPINIONS CHANGE, AND TASTES CHANGE. BUT CREATIVITY WILL ALWAYS BE ESSENTIAL. AND RARE. BECAUSE IT HAS TO COME FROM YOU.
• Thereʼs a reason itʼs
called a “breakthrough.” You have to BREAK THROUGH something. RT@sallyhogshead • Creative or comfortable? Pick one. RT@sallyhogshead • Boring ideas are cheap. Fascinating ideas are precious. RT@sallyhogshead • Not Google. Not Apple. Not Twitter. YOU are the ultimate technology. RT@sallyhogshead • Creativity will always be essential. And rare. Because it has to come from YOU. @sallyhogshead • Technology keeps getting faster. But creativity will always operate on its own timeline. RT@sallyhogshead • The reality is: creativity is sloppy, imperfect, and irrational. RT@sallyhogshead • If you want an epiphany, you need to sit your butt in the Throne of Agony. RT@sallyhogshead Foryou,afeweasytweetablebitstoshare theseideas: SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE