Man in a shirt making notes on a piece of paper

The Creative Process

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Embarking on a new creative project is both exciting and daunting. Normally, the excitement for a project comes at the very beginning, and at the very end. The daunting bit comes in the middle. At the beginning we develop a vision, brainstorm ideas, set a timeline, and buzz with all the possibilities. At the end we receive a sense of fulfilment, relief, and closure. But how do we deal with the ‘filling in the sandwich’; the hard slog in the middle part of the project?

Here are three things that really help me to stay happy when I’m working on a long-term creative project.

1.Β  Set mini-goals

I maintain a ‘things-to-do’ list every day, and I make sure that I don’t make the list too long or too short. Normally 5-10 items is about right. I make sure I factor in work on my projects, but also exercise and relaxing activities as well as necessary chores. If you’ve got an iPhone, the Notes app is great for doing this, and thanks to iCloud your notes will sync with your other Apple devices, for editing anywhere. No doubt there are Android equivalents; you’re welcome to leave a comment with your favourite.

2. Declutter

I try to end each day with an empty inbox and no pending notifications on my phone. That gives me a real sense of satisfaction and helps me to sleep more peacefully. Sounds impossible? Then you’re probably subscribed to too many mailing lists or have downloaded too many apps. Have a clear-out! Rather than being on every social site, pick two or three that are most relevant to your project and master them. In your email client (Gmail for me), consider creating filters so your emails automatically go into folders. As a blogger I find this especially helpful, as all the new posts from blogs I follow go into one folder. I can then dedicate time to catching up with all my favourite blogs in one go, while dealing with all my personal emails separately.

3. Schedule quiet time

Try to take half an hour each day when you’re doing absolutely nothing but sitting quietly and thinking (perhaps with a cup of tea in hand). Turn your phone off, close your laptop, and enjoy the peace of having no distractions. It’s wonderfully refreshing just to savour the peace and count your blessings. It helps keep everything in perspective. is primarily a theology and music blog, so you won’t find me writing motivational posts like this very often. But I hope these tips are helpful. How do you keep motivated in the middle of a project? Leave a comment below!


  1. Can I say, thank you. Great advice. Feeling a tad overwhelmed and maybe a little guilty if I am not always busy, which leads to clutter in my mind and on my desk. Rest is a great concept.

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    1. Yes, it’s definitely helpful to have that quiet time. I love technology so much but it does create pressure and restlessness. Good to regroup and simplify once in a while 😊


  2. Love! Love! Love!

    I can add one more thing. I try to take a 24 to 48 hour sabbatical every couple of months. I find a day where I walk away from everything! I use the time to do something totally selfish. It may mean Netflix binge, read a book, go shopping, out to eat, long walks or bikerides. It just depends on my mood. I recharge and don’t feel guilty telling people no because I schedule this day on my calendar. It is very important to take time for yourself or you burn out.

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  3. Really enjoyed this post! I certainly appreciate the second point. The little red bubbles on my Mac App icons are the worst distractions!! Also, point three is super important for me, as well. But, this is a time of reflection and a time of discernment. For me it is a prayerful process of listening! Thanks for your words and your continued encouragement! Blessings.

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  4. Good advice here on so many things. I went on Facebook for about five minutes and all of a sudden I had so many people wanting to be my “friend,” I left and never went back. That was too many friends for anyone??? πŸ™‚

    I do have an email and my blog and that is it! I do not text or anything and two friends have my cell phone number because when I am out eating, shopping, etc.. I do not want 50 people calling me. My family members are the only one’s with my cell phone number outside of these two friends.

    Every Sunday, I “shut down.” No washing, and outside of a brunch no cooking, housecleaning etc…. Phones are cut off about noon after I call my Dad to let him know if he needs anything to call my cell phone. They do not go back on until about 5-6 p.m.

    I may read, watch a good movie, draw, do a little blogging etc… You would be surprised how much better you feel come Monday morning. Good post and God Bless, SR

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  5. Hi Steven,
    I start out with “big idea” which I break down into possible sections. Under each section I jot down possible ideas, not in any order but just as they occur to me. I might wake up during the night with ideas that I jot down. taking walks is also a great time for creating random thoughts.
    Write every idea down without judgement or editing. This is the wildly creative stage, Read books, articles that canvas the issues. This is the “brown paper bag” stage, where everything no matter how remotely relevant, is thrown in. No not cull at this stage,
    Imagine your likely readership and imagine their likely reactions. Test ideas online.
    Start assembling the material. Be prepared for your own thoughts to be adjusted along the way.
    Keep the creative juices flowing until at some stage your rational, logical mind kicks in and it says “enough is enough”. Your logical mind will then “see” what its creative counterpart has done, and look at it with amazement.
    Assemble the material, editing and culling at this stage.
    You started out with a big idea and you had broken it into its myriad parts. Your reader will see those myriad parts, accept some, reject others and in the process make some adjustments to their pre-existing mental models.
    In this way, your reader will create their own “big picture” that is quite different to the “big picture” you had started with. and that is the way it should be and is quite ok

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