I first came across this exact wording of this idea while perusing Rachael Stephen’s Youtube channel in search of content for my Using a Bullet Journal to Help You Write post. The general concept had always been there, in such terms as ‘refilling the well’, but as usual, it didn’t really stick or click or speak to me so boldly until I stumbled upon the right wording for the thing.
In Rachael’s video on how she uses a Novel Bullet Journal, she showed a page where she had written down a spread she found on twitter, called the cycle of creativity, or the Creativity Cycle. She linked to the original poster, a lovely Emily Cheeseman. I saved the twitter post, wanting to study it more, and having just experienced a surge in my writing due to actually reading and finishing a few books.
The idea to write a blog post on this has been simmering in the back of my mind since then, and so here we are.
With all due credit to the aforementioned Emily, I’m going to repost//recap her pictures and descriptions of the Creativity Cycle here.
- Creatives feel pressure to spend every second creating, but creativity is a cycle between active producing and dormant recovery.
- Action: Output. Execute Ideas. High energy production.
- Recovery: Input (‘research’; read, watch, play stuff). Let your brain rest. Generate ideas.
- Middle ground for sketching and experimenting.
- Recognize when you have creative energy and use that momentum to make stuff.
- Let yourself have do-nothing days. Your brain needs rest – input and not output. Recharge!
- Burnout: requires longer recovery period.
- Momentum: can carry you through a period of super creativity. MAKE EVERYTHING.
- Finish stuff. It’s better to be done than perfect.
- Write down every idea. Even bad ones. Keep ’em for a rainy day.
- Pick your battles. Find shortcuts, save the hard work and time-consuming detail for when it really counts.
- Let nothing be sacred. Something not working? Change it, start over.
- Be self indulgent. That authenticity will shine through in your work.
- (not pictured) Keep a sketch book. This may seem obvious but it took me a while to build the habit and commit to keeping my work in one place.
- Let it be ugly. Embrace your ability to instantly ruin a sketchbook with horrendous drawings.
- Use it for everything. Thumbnails, doodling while on the phone, checklists, project specs, quotes you like. My sketchbook doubles as a monthly calendar and every square inch is covered in whatever. Very little of it is instagram-worthy, but I am worlds better at generating ideas and managing my process.
I have always noticed a drastic change in my input//output as soon as I introduce regular reading or other types of crafting to my mix of creativity. Unfortunately binging on Netflix doesn’t really help me, and I would wager it doesn’t help any of you that much either, as a standalone. But in moderation and mixed with other types of input, it can be very valuable as well. And never discount the importance of taking walks, especially in nature, or going to new places; a new library or coffee shop or museum.
We creatives are so hard on ourselves to always be outputting, without taking any time to take care of ourselves and gives our creative selves anything to work with. So before you look at your languishing first draft again and berate yourself, go take a walk or start reading a new book. Those activities are just as important as the actual act of creating.
What new avenues of input have you discovered recently?