The creative process has three stages. Inspiration, organization and execution. What’s fascinating is, the first and the last ones are the areas that receive the most attention. Most people seem to complain that they don’t have any good ideas, or that they do have good ideas, but they can’t seem to finish them. And in fact, most educational resources focus on just that. But the real hurdle in people’s creative process is throughput. That’s what keeps most ideas in idea form, the organization stage.
WAREHOUSING — Using basic knowledge management to overcome inspirational and executional
There’s nothing sexy or creative about organizing. Ask anyone who has ever experienced the sheer bliss of making something out of nothing and then sharing it with the world, organization is only part of the creative process that feels like work. Managing our ideas is boring, repetitive, physical labor. No wonder so many creative people either skip it, or worse yet, pretend it doesn’t exist. Unless you’re one of those hyper systematized neat freaks who derives some kind of sick pleasure from filing and labeling folders, organization will almost always trickle to the bottom of the list. This is completely understandable and normal. But if you’re committed to growing your creative practice long term, you need to get comfortable organizing your material. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be accessible. Because if you don’t write it down, it never happened. And if you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist. Carlin wrote in his posthumous autobiography that for fifty years he had been categorizing and indexing the record of everything he’d done, and he felt unarmed without out. He also laughed that he had been blessed with some pretty deep files, although that comment didn’t sound like a joke. It’s actually the secret most people miss. Once you master the organization stage of the creative process, the other two stages snap into place. Can’t find inspiration for your next idea? Open up your nicely organized content management system, walk the factory floor for a bit, and there will never be a shortage of creative sparks.
Warehousing has been my secret weapon for writing music for years. Because my playlists are finely curated, and because the naming conventions for my musical sketches are so specific, my brain can get up to operating temperature and start producing something new on a moment’s notice.
When in doubt, open up your personal creative inventory. Look at the last ten projects you completed and shared with the world. Celebrate your past victories. Remember how satisfying it felt to get each one out the door. Use that energy to motivate yourself to not break the chain. Throughput, throughput, throughput. Organization is not magical and it’s certainly not sexy, but it’s your best weapon for overcoming inspirational and executional blocks. Get your shit together, and you can ship forever. Is everything you know written down somewhere?
Get your creative mechanism up to operating temperature faster
Make input and output phases dramatically faster and easier
Ship work you’re proud of on a consistent basis
Grow more comfortable with the boring, unsexy process of organizing your material.