There isn’t a formula on how to come up with an award-winning idea—but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to figure one out.

I first learned about the “Creative Process” when I was studying at The Creative Circus. It’s one of the lessons that really stuck with me. I don’t find myself thinking about the process step by step, or at all really, but it seems to naturally happen that way.

While there are six “steps”, they don’t always happen in order. And sometimes you have to go through certain steps more than once. Again, creativity is art. Not science.

1. Inspiration

Do research. Read things. Write ideas down. Listen to music. Watch videos. Write more ideas down. Look at award annuals. Talk to a friend. Keep writing more ideas. Don’t judge or self-edit, if it pops in your head, write it down.

2. Clarification.

What are your goals? Refocus on what you’re trying to accomplish. This is a quick step and one you might come back to often, just to make sure you’re still on track. Creative minds tend to wander so it’s easy to get lost on a tangent. One of my favorite songs is “She Likes Purple”. Case and point.

3. Distillation

Look through the ideas you’ve generated and determine which ones are worth keeping around. Star the ones you think have the most potential and put a question mark by the ones you aren’t sure about. When working with a partner, it’s okay to share even your worst ideas because you never know what might spark an idea for them.

4. Perspiration

This is where the blood, sweat and tears come in to play. Put all your effort into the best ideas, craft every sentence and make sure every element is working as hard as it can. Jump ahead to the next step, then come back to look at your work again. If it’s good, keep going until it’s great.

5. Evaluation.

Step back and look over your work in progress. The most important thing here is to really take that step. Take it way back. If you can sleep on it, do it. If you have a deadline looming, at least take a break. Go get coffee, take a walk, or work on something else for a few minutes. Your brain needs that rest.

6. Incubation.

Leave the work alone, put it out of your mind. You may not realize it, but your subconscious is still working through the problems. If you’ve ever wondered why you have the best ideas in the shower, in traffic or right before you fall asleep, you can thank incubation for that.


If that “Creative Process” doesn’t work for you, have fun trying something different. The picture up top is my wall at work, and the paper hanging there illustrates another type of creative process I often find myself going through. And if you’re feeling stuck or caught between steps, something as simple as changing your location might do the trick. I have two friends who claimed that a magical booth at Applebee’s was the secret behind their best work. How do you get your best ideas?

* Come on, you knew it wasn’t going to be that easy.

About thishammer

Alison Hammer is an advertising writer/Creative Director and an author currently seeking agent representation. She has lived in 9 cities, studied at 2 universities and 1 “Circus”, worked at 8 ad agencies, sailed on The Rock Boat 15 times and watched over 120 Gator football games (including 2 national championships). She loves words and the challenge of bringing them together to inspire, to sell products and make people feel something. She has experience writing in every medium for clients ranging from telecom and retail to the Military and hotels.
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