The Creative Process

Creativity has been loosely defined as making something new that never existed before. In marketing and our day-to-day lives, creativity can lead to new ideas, pathways, experiences, conversation and connection. The outcome can be beautiful, exciting, scary, and strange. Creativity can be, well, literally anything-- which is what makes it cool and also really, really hard at the same time. What creative people do best is stick with it, and trust the process. As they say, the only way to be more creative is to create more. 

So what is this allusive process that creative people enter and emerge victoriously with great ideas on the other side? In truth, creativity is unique to each individual, but there are four phases that all follow (intentionally or unintentionally). Channeling your inner artist starts here. 



In the first phase of creativity, we have to allow ourselves to be curious. By seeking information that we are interested in, we build connections that may or may not become useful later. In fact, psychologists have learned that people who are considered “very creative” tend to have more connections in their neural networks, meaning that they’ve stored new information in ways that connect to other things that they know.

Steve Jobs famously gave a commencement speech about the idea of “connecting the dots”. He talked about how a seemingly random calligraphy course in college helped him develop the first computer with beautiful typography. Reflecting about his successes, he said that, “much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on”. He also said that “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Agreed.



Once we have gained an awareness of the challenge, we usually need a little soak time. Psychologists refer to this period when our subconscious takes over as “incubation.” The creative idea will emerge eventually, but we have to let it go first. Take a walk, go to the record store, cook something new, etc. This period can be fun for a while, but can also produce anxiety while we simply wait for the idea to come find us.

My best advice during this time is to keep working, and keep your mind open. Set a regular schedule and look for inspiration above distraction… although a little distraction sometimes is beneficial.



The Aha! Moment. You finally have a good idea! And it’s sooo good. But that’s it. After all this time, all you have is a good idea. The challenge is producing the idea. In other words, you have to bring your vision to life.

Collaboration with others can be very beneficial during this phase. While it can be difficult sometimes to receive criticism--even of the constructive variety--I encourage you to seek feedback from peers and people who you trust. The cumulative effects of different perspectives will make your original idea grander, and often times more relevant.



Making new things that never existed before is a ton of work, which is why we need passion to get us through it. After all, isn’t it the mastery of Pablo Picasso’s painting technique that makes his work incredible? And without the expert prose of every Shakespearean phrase, would his words sound as sweet? Nope.

Whether you’re making art, playing music, writing a story, or designing a marketing plan like me, it’s all about the details. Our big ideas provide the energy to create, and it’s a matter of passion and grit to follow it all the way through. Keep yourself motivated to bring that big, gorgeous idea to life. As with all parts of the creative process, just keep showing up and eventually it will happen.

And when your idea finally lives and breathes… you’ll know it was all worth it. I promise.

Tonic Marketing helps companies break out of a marketing rut by providing fresh ideas. We also love to be a collaborative partner for developing new innovations. If you would be interested in setting up a workshop or brainstorm, we’d love to hear more about what you’re thinking.

Sara Soergel