Creativity or Idea in Progress: Stages of a Creative Process

One person’s creative process is exhibited in a different way and timeline from another. Anyone who has unlocked the creative potential within themselves underwent a process akin to bringing an idea to fruition.

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What is a Creative Process?

A creative process is the progression of an idea from an evolution of actions and thoughts into its final manifestation. This process involves a person’s problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Every creative individual, such as producers, authors, and songwriters, typically goes through the five stages of the creative process to bring their ideas to life. These are the preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, and verification stages. Graham Wallas, a social psychologist and co-founder of the London School of Economics, first articulated these stages of the creative process. He outlines them in his book on creativity titled The Art of Thought, published in 1926.


Although people’s creative and thought processes can be done with unique methods, there are still five stages that many creative people unconsciously follow while pursuing their creative activities.

1. Preparation

The first stage is preparation. This involves preparatory work and the generation of ideas. At this stage, you brainstorm ideas, conduct thorough research, and gather materials that could spark an idea into your mind. Leave it to wander freely and always consider any possible inclination to the build-up of your idea.

If you’re a scientist, look for past research and see if you can find something to dig deeper into. If you are venturing into music, then it’s best to surround yourself with a lot of music you think might inspire your new piece. If you are a businessperson, research the business market and other companies to find something that might inspire you. If you are a writer, you can read works of other authors that might spark an idea. Lastly, if you are an artist, try viewing other artworks and see which ones stimulate your brain.

This stage is best done in a quiet environment as you are trying to take in as much information as possible, and the information received by your sub-consciousness is important in the second stage of the creative process.

2. Incubation

The second stage is when all the information you gathered during the first stage is let go. Taking a step away from your idea and leaving it to the side for a while before coming back to it is a part of creative thinking. It can take days, weeks, or months, and you might even work on a different project or take a break from your creative process— the point is, you’re not deliberately trying to put your idea into action. The interesting part about this stage is that you don’t really have control over how long this will take and not something you can rush.

Deserting your idea might appear counterproductive, but it’s important to experience this stage of the creative process. It’s during this stage that your idea in the back of your mind is incubating.

3. Insight

The insight stage is also sometimes called the illumination stage. It is the “aha” o the “eureka” moment of a creative person. This third stage is what most people regard as the classic sign of a creative person. It might be the smallest part of the five stages, but it is one of the most important parts. During this stage, the light bulb flickers on while you form spontaneous connections using all the information you’ve gathered that are just sitting at the back of your brain. This is when the ideas are brought to the forefront of your creative thoughts. The third stage is when you find the answers to your creative quests.

4. Evaluation

The fourth stage, evaluation, is where most creative people struggle. It’s because, more often than not, these people have a lot of ideas to run through but not a lot of time. It’s in this stage that you consider the plausibility of your idea and compare it to alternatives. During this process, it’s important to reflect and go through self-criticism. You might also use this time to look back at your earlier problems or concepts to see if they align with your vision.

5. Verification

Verification is the fifth and final stage of the creative process. It’s when all your ideas and thought process are put into work. This is the stage when the hard work occurs. The creative process of an individual isn’t complete with just the ideas, and they also have to go through all that preparation and put it into works.

The elaboration stage is when you test your ideas, work on them, and test them again until you are finally satisfied with them. Your creative product might be a song, a physical object, a novel, an architectural design, an advertising campaign, or anything that you created out of the ideas you formed in your head. The last stage is actually you finalize your ideas, bringing them to life, and sharing them with the world.