23 Mar

4 Phases of Idea-Generation

Posted in Creativity, DIY MFA, Process, Writing

Most new ideas or concepts go through a four-phase process.  The time spent in each phase–along with the order of the phases themselves–can vary depending on the person and the project.  Some phases can even be repeated multiple times throughout the creative process.

4 Phases of Idea Generation

Inspiration Phase
This phase is where you get that initial spark of an idea and it’s what most people think of as the creative process (though as you’ll see, the creative process extends beyond this phase).  In DIY MFA 2.O, we’ll be focusing on this phase, talking about some of the techniques writers can use to dig up new ideas for projects.

Incubation Phase
This is when you let the idea sit for a while.  You might feel weird leaving a project hanging–lazy even–but this phase is an important stage in any creative development.  In writing, incubation can occur between drafts, in the middle of a draft, or even before you start the very first draft.  The important thing is being able to recognize when you need to step back from a project and give yourself room to do so.

Illumination Phase
This is the evaluation stage, where you look at the idea or project, tease it apart and figure out its weak points.  This is also where you look at the overall organization of your idea and shuffle things around as needed.  While your inner critic might usually be persona non grata, in this phase, it might be appropriate to let it have its say.  Later on, we’ll talk later about ways to use your inner critic productively without letting it go spastic and take over your project.

Implementation Phase
This phase, which usually comes at the end, is where you stop thinking and start writing.  Funny how that keeps coming up again and again in ORACLE-related posts.  In the end, it all comes down to the same thing: you can plan and think and ponder all you like, but sooner or later you have to sit down and write.

Every writer has at least one phase they love and at least one that makes a root canal sound like fun.  For me, implementation is where I drag my feet but I’m nutso for the other three.  In fact, I have to limit the number of WIPs I have going or else I’d be constantly tempted to start a ton of projects and I’d never finish any.  What phase do you tend to get “stuck” in and never want to leave?  Which phase scares the living daylights out of you?


Comments on this post

  1. JoLynne Lyon says:

    The illumination phase is hard for me. I'm never sure I'm really done.

    1. Kiernan says:

      Implementation is my favorite stage – where I know what I want to say, what story I want to tell, and I just do it. Incubation is hardest for me. I'm just so impatient.

      1. melissa says:

        Incubation is hardest for me. Usually when I get the idea I want to get right to the writing!

        I tend to get stuck in illumination. At that point the idea is still shiny and perfect and I know I'll find issues once I move on.

        1. J.L. Campbell says:

          For me the illumination phase is the hardest to leave. I'll be figuring and figuring for a while before taking any steps toward writing anything.

          1. Orlando says:

            The incubation phase is where I do my best work. It just takes too long.

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