The Creative Process
Last week I visited the Stedelijk Museum with a group of
students to watch the new video 'Number 14', made by Guido van der Werve. It's a brilliant piece of
work, showing a tribute and homage to Chopin, Alexander the Great
and Papendrecht. The students were there because they to have to
make a homage to a person they admire in the coming eight weeks.
Damn those teachers and their conceptual assignments!
To help them along I will give them some pointers to work on
such an assignment, considering some necessary steps you will have
to take in a creative process. Now this is tricky. I'm well aware
that the research considering creativity is as deep and wide as the
Pacific Ocean, but anyone who has other or better ideas, please
feel free to comment below.
I will stick to the research I did, and that is the implementation
of the Mother of all creativity process models, the one Graham Wallas formed in 1926. It is a fairly
simple recursive model in four stages and is used for decades by
all kind of research concerning creativity, problem solving and
tackling complex thought problems.
First you start to think about the problem or question that is
there. How to make a homage to this person you chose? What kind of
tools are you going to use? Only images? Or perhaps film? But that
takes a lot of time and you have only eight weeks. Text? And what
do I want to say? How did other people do that with this person?
Maybe there are bad YouTube covers, let's check that out…
You dig in, try to find all kinds of stuff about your hero or
heroine and try to link that to the means and first idea's you
have. It's a big pile of chaos you start to collect. Don't throw
anything away yet! There's always time and opportunity for that
later. For now, every idea has the same value and should be treated
like little gold nuggets.
Ok, so this is a weird term and should be explained a bit. What
is meant is that you have to take a break in your cognitive
thinking about the problems and all the possible solutions. It's
just too much! You also have to give your unconsciousness a chance
to process the information. Some
believe that this is actually the best way to think about big,
complex problems. Go hiking, swimming, biking or something else to
take your mind of the problem. Don't worry, you'll process the
solution in the background and you will know you have something
when you hit the Illumination stage.
This is the 'AHA!' you've been waiting for. An idea that is
better than the rest of the sub-ideas you have had the past few
days. This one has something special; you can even feel it in your
body. Some say it feels like a bolt of electricity, others describe
it as a moment of lightness the moment the idea occurred. However
it feels, you will recognise it when it comes along. And don't
worry; you will have a few of them the coming weeks, so be
Now, of course, you have to find out it the idea really works!
What is great in your mind can be crap on paper, so get to work! Is
it done before? How to visualise it? What are the complications and
consequences? As soon as you start to work on this, other problems
arise and will need an answer in the future. They need preparation
again! So you get back to stage 1 and start all over again, but now
with more knowledge, insights and ideas than the first time.
Repeat when needed. Good luck!
Philip is a photographer and course leader at the Utrecht School of the Arts.