There is no secret, universal formula for creativity -- at least, none that I've discovered. Each of us has our own unique creative process, and all too often? It's a twisting path full of blind turns, dead-ends and leaps of faith.
Me? I usually try to start off with a plan -- an itinerary & time-table of some sort. I dream up beautifully charted inventories of the puzzle-pieces and a map of where I imagine all the pieces belong, and complex systems for how to get them there. I picture a wealth of linear, organized glory, and I get all a-quiver with a feeling of productivity.
But feeling productive (or even looking productive) isn't the same thing as BEING productive.
And the more I try to be productive by imposing external structures like my lovely (mostly imaginary) plans and charts and systems? The less inspired I am to do the actual work. And if I DO get the work done, it somehow comes out stifled. Too much structure (even self-imposed structure) kills my magic.
Those traditional, linear plans that I love the idea of so much?
Yeah, those plans just don't work out for me. So once I've beaten my head against them for an appropriate length of time, I rip my outlines, mind-maps and wire-frame models off the metaphorical wall. I do my best to quit worrying about what others think of my process, and just get on with things.
'Getting on with things" means shoving all of the 'shoulds' out of the way, and letting the process flow around my natural, internal structure. Flow really is the right word for it, too -- it's like a river, always changing, adapting, moving around obstacles and carving it's own path. They say that you never step into the same river twice, and that's true of my own creative process.
Honestly, it's a lot of trial and error, error and trial, repurpose, rework, then try, error, try again.
Here's a glimpse of how a key-element of this website developed:
The swinging seagull. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just mouse over the seagull at the top of this post. Or the one in the footer. Go on, I'll wait for you... Back yet? Got your swing on? Well, alrighty, here's how that magic happened...
- It started with the Right-Brain Business Plan's "Big Vision" exercise, where an annoying, frustrating, and enigmatic seagull showed up.
- While I was trying to figure out what the seagull and his nonsense was all about, I scribbled out a drawing of him to add to my RBBP, as an illustration.
- I decided the gull needed to look like he was flying, so I cut him out, stuck him on a string. and hung him from my RBBP. Cool, huh?
- I wrote a blog post, about the visualization, and repurposed the images from my RBBP as illustrations. Yay, recycling!
- Skip forward a few months, and I'm busy designing this new Quirkipreneurs website. I found a website template I almost loved but it had one of those gawd awful huge full screen headers. They look good on mobile sites, but most of my biz users are on desktop or at least a tablet. I needed some extra oomph to fill the space.
- I tried to create new illustrations for the header - nothing seemed to work. The concepts were falling flat, and the execution was, well, sucking. I tried stock photos... nope, that wasn't working either. Finally, I flipped through my existing illustrations and decided to repurpose a doodle - that's where the antlered Quirkipreneur came from. Yay, right?
- But the header still needed something else -- I tried stars. I tried clouds. I tried flowers. I tried abstract flowey things. I tried money falling from the sky. NOTHING was working. Finally I spotted the seagull, and thought... why not?
- After playing with a whole FLOCK of seagulls in the header, flying this way and that, in various configurations? I settled on just one gull. Then I put him on a string, just like in my Right-Brain Business Plan, to give it the feel of a mobile.
It worked! Yay, right? I should stop there, right? It's good enough... be practical, Tori, move on!
But I couldn't get one more idea out of my head... Wouldn't it be cool if the gull MOVED? It's like he kept swooping down and whispering in my ear: "I want to FLY! Make me FLY!"
After trying to hush that inner voice for a few days, I went on a hunt for ways to make it happen. I found a suitable animation method I knew I could tackle, found a code generator so I didn't actually have to write the core code, fussed with it until it was right, and...
TADA! A swinging seagull!
He's a great tactile Easter-egg, one that brings a smile, sticks in your head, and helps to remember the site. And yet it was never planned, in any way - it just happened to work.
Most of my best work happens this way. The magic develops from ideas that just won't go away, require "too much work" and incorporate a lot of repurposed, recycled and reworked bits and pieces, and it's rarely planned. That's not to say I don't TRY to plan - I do. I can spend weeks (months! YEARS!) trying to force a concept to work "as planned". When I give up and throw together some scraps as a temporary fix, somehow it's awesome.
So that's my personal magic formula.
So why does the seagull swing?
Because that's what he wanted to do, and that's where my process led me. There was no big plan to make him a "thing", but he is.
People sometimes describe my work as brilliant, original and inspiring. They seem to marvel at my end results, and yet in nearly the same breath? They comment that my process is a mess. To outsiders, my way of working seems random and wasteful, full of half-baked ideas, wrong turns, wasted time and perfectionist ideals that lead nowhere. "Tori, if you stop fussing with details, and focus on getting "good enough" stuff OUT there," they say, "THINK what you could accomplish?"
And in some ways, they're right. Maybe if I stuck to a straight forward plan, I wouldn't just feel more productive, I'd BE more productive.Maybe. I don't know, because I just can't seem to manage the formal plan thing.
But I know one thing for sure... that sort of straight forward productivity would never have produced the magic of a swinging seagull.
"Qurkipreneurs grok their creative process" ~ excerpted from the unwritten, unpublished & unplanned "Journals of a Quirkipreneur"