While I love being an artist, I have had to learn to love creating systems and processes for planning to produce my own work. This is a necessary part of artist entrepreneurship that is not as complicated as it seems. Being a strong and confident planner means adopting planning tools that suit our needs. As you know, artists are in the practice of creating things that have never existed before; so, the rhythm and nature of our world cannot be contained in a day planner. Having different needs does not mean we are doomed forever to be naturally drawn into chaos and disorder. It simply means that we need to develop our own specialized systems for planning. We need planning tools, approaches and processes that can support the planning needs of a creator.

This said, when we think about planning, our first goal is to understand our own unique creative process. Process is defined as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” Your creative process includes the steps that you take to create and complete new work.

In this article, I have outlined the three most common phases of any artistic creative process: idea, design, build.  Just so you know, by artist I simply mean any creator: dancers, actors, novelists, filmmakers, musicians, fashion and jewelry designers, theater, film and photography artists, digital artists, painters, sculptors, visual artists and more.

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 Idea is the first phase of your creative process.The idea emerges when the artist experiences a moment of inspiration. It includes: inspiration, conceive, refine and select.

Your artistic product begins with inspiration. Most artists are motivated by the fulfillment that comes from creation. I call this initial motivation the inspiration. Inspiration is defined as, “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” Perhaps you went to a museum, a concert, saw a film, or had a conversation with a 90 year old. Now, you are inspired.

When an artist decides to at on inspiration we officially enter into the first phase of the creative process: idea. Idea is defined as “a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action” and the moment that your inspiration sparks a particular course of action you have the beginning of your new product.

After inspiration, you will enter the next stage of the idea phase: conceive. This is where you might imagine the various different versions of the product: should I make this a YouTube web series or a short play? You might meet with a fellow artist to discuss the idea. In the conceive phase, you are taking the idea and considering how it might fit into your artistic portfolio, what it might look like and how your community might respond to it.

Once you are firmly settled on making this artistic work you enter into the third stage of the idea phase: refine. This is where you listen to criticism, research similar products and look at your work with more scrutiny. The initial glow of the inspiration stage has worn off and now you are thinking practically about this new idea.

Finally, if your artistic product makes it through refine, you will enter the final stage of idea: select. In select, you know you are going to make this product and you are committed to adding it to your artistic portfolio.

What do you do in your IDEA phase? Reflecting on your last artistic work, write down what you do in each of these stages of the idea phase and add to the process your own unique stages and phases as needed.
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After selecting a product in the idea phase, you will create a plan to make it happen.

Once you have selected your idea you enter the second phase: design. The first stage of the design phase is vision. The artist creates a vision of the final product that can include a vision board or it might just be a detailed description of the final product. The purpose of the vision stage, is to give the artist the opportunity to decide what exactly they are creating. The second stage of the design phase is plan. Here is where you decide when you would like to complete the product, where you will make it, what resources you have and what you will need to make it. The final stage of design is delivery. The delivery stage determines where it will be delivered and who the customer will be.

This phase typically includes research and analysis.  It might involve market research, surveys, informal interviews and partner selection. Reflecting on the last products you made, consider how you go about doing each of these. Reflect on what specific things you do in each stage of this phase and going forward be sure to document and record your future actions.

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This is the part you know best. Build simply means to go be an amazing artist. 

The final phase of your creative process is build. After idea and design it is time to build. You don’t need me to tell you what to do here; this is where you are the expert. The build phase is the part where you make your film, play, painting, animation, website, graphic design, music album, novel or other artistic work. You will define this phase according to your field but there are two basic stages I will offer if you need a place to start:

  1. Preparation: This is where you gather all of the raw materials, equipment, technology and other tools required to make the work.
  2. Creation Environment: This is where you go to record the music, head to the studio, arrange the film shoot and enter the actual space where you create.


As you read through the three phases, I hope you were able to define your own creative process. Keep in mind that you may need to adapt this format to your unique needs. You can add, take away or amend the phases and stages accordingly. I hope this will help you to define a process that conforms to your unique method of creating. I wish you the best with defining and refining your own unique creative process.

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