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A 4-Step Guide to Creating

by Jay Delaney

Some of my greatest fulfillment in life has come from creating.  Creating websites.  Creating movies.  Creating marketing pieces.  The opportunities abound to express yourself.  Sometimes all the opportunities can be paralyzing though.  Creation takes time and care.  Sometimes I have had trouble deciding on what to create for fear that the time and care I put into it will be wasted.  However, the reality of creating is that nearly all acts of creation lead us to new insights, new ideas, and new confidence.  Real creating requires completing.  While I imagine no two people create in exactly the same way, I’m going to share my approach to creating with you:

  1. Decide what I want to create
  2. Seek out inspiration
  3. Figure out how to create
  4. Create

First, I decide what I want to create. This can be challenging.  For me, it’s usually the hardest part of the whole process.  Maybe it’s a film.  Maybe it’s a book.  Maybe it’s a blog.  Maybe it’s a business.  Maybe it’s a greeting card.  All of these have been on my list at some point or another.  Sometimes we place too much importance on WHAT it is and feel stressed about picking the right thing.  There are no right or wrong answers though.  If your head is a jumbled mess of ideas of what you want to create, that’s great!  The more passion, the more inspiration, the better.  At this point, I try to get everything out of my head and onto paper.  I write down everything I want to create.  The more, the merrier.  When I get overwhelmed or worried about fitting everything into this one life I’ve been given, I just try to remind myself that it can all happen in due time.  After I’ve written down everything, I force myself to pick one project.  For me, it works best when I can focus my attention on one project.  I don’t really understand why multi-tasking is so admired; for me, best results come when I focus blindly on one thing.  (If while I’m focusing blindly on one thing other ideas come along, then I jot them down so I can focus on them later.)  At this point, I have identified a project and decided what I want to create.

Then, I seek out inspiration. Inspiration can come from the strangest of places.  Still images have inspired me.  Films have inspired me.  People have inspired me.  Sometimes just seeing someone on a bus can inspire me.  The important thing to note though is that the most helpful kind of inspiration usually comes after I have decided what I want to create.  Some people wait to create until they get inspired.  But too often, inspiration doesn’t come if you’re just sitting around waiting for it to hit you of the blue.  Even though I’m searching for inspiration at this point, I’m still staying open to whatever comes my way.  There are two ways that I have had success in finding inspiration.

  1. Seeking out external inputs like movies, music, photographs, and stories; then just going wherever they happen to take me.  Interestingly enough, often what inspires me probably isn’t what the creator intended to inspire me.
  2. Seeking inward by writing out a question and then freewriting until I find the answer.

Feeling inspired doesn’t always mean that I have a clear path laid out.  It’s usually just the passion and fuel that I need to really get started on the manual labor involved in creating.

Then, I figure out how to create. In this phase, I figure out the manual labor necessary to make things happen.  Sometimes I may have some idea of how to do something.  Other times I don’t have a clue.  It doesn’t really matter though because I know I’ll figure it out somehow.  Art that’s meaningful to me doesn’t come with an instruction manual.  This phase is highly customized to the particular arena in which I’m operating.  And sometimes this can take a little while.  The goal here should not be perfection though.  Once you feel like you have an idea for how to tackle 75% of the project, you should just take a leap of faith and get started.  When I wanted to make a movie, I spent a few months living in NYC working as a production assistant, and concurrently I took a continuing education course at the School of Visual Arts in filmmaking.  Through the P.A. work and the film course, not only did I pick up some ideas on how to make the film, but I also got access to equipment to help get the job done.  By the end of that class, I had completed a film.  All that really matters here is that you figure out the how of creating.  You have to trust that you can and will figure out how.

And lastly, I create. Creating something requires courage.  While nearly everyone has the capacity to create, many choose not to create.  It takes discipline and persistence.  Every single time I have created something, I have run into hurdles to climb that I never could have anticipated at the start.  Sometimes I’ve run low on funding.  Other times, inspiration has vanished.  Other times, technology has failed me.  It doesn’t matter.  These are all just excuses.  The times that I have given into these excuses, I have walked away discouraged and disappointed.  But it’s such an adrenaline rush when I have plowed forward and told myself, “Okay, so this happened.  Now how do I work through this?”  Sometimes creating results in failing.  That’s okay too.  The sheer act of creating will take you to new places you never could have imagined.  And sometimes, creating is simply another form of inspiration that pushes you forward on another project on your list.  Ultimately, everything ends up being connected to each other.  It’s just a matter of me clearing my mind to be able to see how it all fits together.  Creating is the key to connecting the dots.  I have a feeling you already know what creating means; it’s just a matter of doing it.

Now, what will you create?

About the Picture Above

This shot was taken in Ohio in January 2006 from the film shoot for a documentary I produced/directed called Not Your Typical Bigfoot Movie.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rewrite Beautiful November 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Great post Jay! Really great points in here! I’m gonna share it with my peeps!


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