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Creative Process


We have all heard the saying “When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Life gives everyone different struggles and scenarios, but at times, it might seem that Life has every intention to beat you down with a bag of lemons. Every time you get back up, you just seem to get shoved back down again. And why is it that some people seem to have it so easy? Life never seems to push them down and you definitely haven’t ever seen them with a lemon. Yet, there you are, struggling to get up quick enough and dust yourself off before you get knocked down again. It’s just not fair! You end up resenting everyone around you because you can’t seem to get a break, but what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if there was another option?


The way we go through life has much less to do with what happens to us than what we choose to do with it. The proverbial phrase about lemons may be overrated and obnoxious, but perception truly is key to finding a better outcome. Creative process is a broad discipline and might bring one to think about the arts, writing or design, but this process can also be applied to the way we handle the lemons that Life throws at us. By using creative thinking to solve daily problems that arise, you are more likely to reach a favorable outcome. (Ross, 2013) “But I’m not a creative person. There’s no way I could become a creative thinker.” Really? Try to read the paragraph below. (Michalko, 2017)

“Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabridge Uinvervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a ttoal mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is besauae ocne we laren how to raed we bgien to aargnre the lteerts in our mnid to see waht we epxcet to see. The huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but preecsievs the wrod as a wlohe. We do tihs ucnsoniuscoly wuithot tuhoght."

Your mind just creatively interpreted the paragraph by making connections and recognizing patterns so that you could read it, even though the words aren’t part of the English language. This is because the human mind is biologically capable of creative thinking. YOU are a creative thinker. So stop doubting yourself and let's get started.


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Ellamil, M., Dobson, C., Beeman, M., & Christoff, K. (2012). Evaluative and generative modes of thought during the creative process. NeuroImage, 59(2), 1783–1794.

Kleon, A. (2012). Creativity is Subtraction. In Steal like an Artist (pp. 137–140). NY: Workman Publishing Company.

Lubart, T. I. (2001). Models of the Creative Process: Past, Present and Future. Creativity Research Journal, 13(3-4), 295–308.

Michalko, M. (2017). Are You Seeing. Retrieved from

Ross, J. T. (2013). Creative Process Problem Solving. The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, 15(4).

Sapp, D. (1992). The Point of Creative Frustration and the Creative Process: A New Look at an Old Model. Publication of the Creative Education Foundation, 26(1), 21–28.


Lubart (2001) defines the creative process as sequential thoughts in conjunction with actions resulting in an innovative conception. The process involved with creativity has been studied and theorized extensively in the last century. Graham Wallace developed his famous four-stage model of the creative process in 1926 which consisted of (1) preparation, (2) incubation, (3) illumination, and (4) verification. (Sapp, 1992) Varying theories since have broken the creative process up into more extensive phases and sub phases, but many have generally come to recognize fluidity in these phases and their sequence. Such psychological theories suggest that there are two types of thought that occur during these processes: generative and evaluative. (Ellamil, Dobxon, Beeman, & Christoff, 2012) Over time, these theories have led us to a much better understanding of the abilities and processes surrounding creativity and ultimately a better understanding of its possibilities. (Lubart, 2001)

Ross (2013) breaks down an identifiable version of Wallace’s four stage model that provides useful insight to practice the creative process in daily applications. The first step is to (1) IDENTIFY A CHALLENGE. In some cases, you may be given a challenge without having to seek it out (those lemons Life keeps throwing at you), while in other cases you might have to actively seek out challenges in your daily life. Once you have identified a challenge, you must (2) FIND THE PROBLEM that exists within it. What exactly makes this challenge difficult? Be specific. You can’t begin to solve a problem unless you have a clear question to answer. After clearly pinpointing the problem, you can begin to (3) INVESTIGATE. This means gathering a clear understanding of all causes and effects surrounding the problem. This is the phase where you dig deeper and educate yourself about the struggle you are facing. Lastly, you begin to (4) GENERATE IDEAS. This is the moment where creativity is born. Based on everything that you have done at this point, you develop these inspiring thoughts and bring them to life through action. As discussed earlier, theorists have recognized that this process is not rigid -- you may start at phase (3) in order to get to phase (1) or have several phase (4) ideas before you ever get to phase (3). These phases are not meant to restrict you but to help you consider steps to approach decision making in your daily lives. Ross (2013) ends by explaining that the challenge he identified in his life was cancer. He couldn’t do all the things he once could do and he felt limited physically. Instead of focusing on the activities he couldn’t do, he began focusing on those he could do. This opened a door of possibilities because Ross began to focus on his capabilities instead of his inabilities. Are you still not convinced that perception is key to Life’s outcomes? Look at the image below. What do you see?


Duck? Rabbit? What did you see? It doesn't really matter -- what matters is that now you see them both because you changed your perspective. The only way to develop your creative thinking skills is to practice. ​There are many resources dedicated to developing the creative process. You can visit and practice some of Michael Michalko's exercises on critical thought. We often see things through the bias of our life experiences and memories, but if we continue to see and think about things the way we always have, we will always receive the same outcome that we have always gotten. Oftentimes Life’s biggest limitations offer the largest opportunities. (Kleon, 2012) When Life gives you a lemon, remember it’s not about the fruit. It’s about what you choose to do with it. Choose to use perspective to see past the limitation and discover the opportunity for something great.

A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”


Graham Greene


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