stages of the creative process

july has taught reminded me a great deal about my own creative process. it was -at once- painful, valuable, frustrating, and ended up being quite artful.

this was my month to start fresh: i had a few hours on weekday mornings in july (while the little lady was at summer camp) to dream into my next career steps, to make art, to have space. i had high hopes. the mornings went FAST between drop-off and pick-up (what is with this phenomenon? i can barely get a load of wash done during camp hours!) i made attempts to get my shit together. to make grand plans. to tackle technical difficulties. i let myself down and beat myself up.

wallowing in vices at bedtime

then i remembered myself. ah yes – the familiar in-between space where i “should” all over myself about all of what i should be doing right now. and instead i do anything but those things. i call friends. i play with instagram. i listen to ani difranco. i lurk around facebook. then i eventually make art.

i sewed my first skirt!

i remember reading back in art therapy grad school about edith wallace’s ideas on the creative process. in her model, the creative process is made up of four stages:

  1. preparation: where one forms intention and ideas
  2. incubation: the process of working and resting
  3. illumination: the solution appears
  4. verification: where the product is completed and refined

for me, july has been a time of preparation and incubation. out of these early stages, the grand ideas come, right? i do see the light at the end of the tunnel. could it be… illumination? all i know is that right now i’m planting seeds. seeds that still have to sit in fertile soil for a while no matter how much i yell, “grow grow grow GROW!” at them. i have to be patient and remember this is part of who i am during transitional times. i’m impatient and seemingly sloth-like, in the eye of the casual observer.

our family wearing washi tape clothes

this is part of my personal creative process. i eat much chocolate. i plan girls’ nights out and date nights and i host dinner parties that are prettier than they are delicious. i download new photo editing iphone apps and play with them into the wee hours of the night while my husband puts a pillow over his face to block out the iphone bat-symbol projected onto the bedroom ceiling. i watch far too much watch what happens live. i cry about how little i’ve accomplished in july. i wipe the tears and i remember wallace’s encouraging words that this stage is about working and resting. yes, i am creating wonderful little things, little circles within the grand circle… and i am resting. okay then, back to square one. make something else.

homemade gluten free olallieberry pie

i watch my daughter make art.

a tiny book in the making

i watch my daughter get very curious about her world.

the little one taking apart an old watch

a “i have to make a bike — NOW!” moment using sticks and duct tape

it inspires me to do the same. i take a ton of photos of inanimate objects. i dehydrate almonds and learn a new recipe for buckwheat buttermilk pancakes. i go to the beach. i play uno. i re-do my mantel. i wait.

apothecary drawer flea market find turned summer nature hoarding depository

i rejoice in making new types of art with my favorite little artist.

trying out paper plate circular weaving

weavings in progress

we get into a mandala theme and try our hand at melting pony beads into suncatchers in our toaster oven, outside. (i am scared of toxic fumes.)

i celebrate the art she has created in summer camp… herb-infused oils, hand-stitched tea bags, potted plants, homemade bread and butter, a felt lavender sachet…

summer camp creations

i celebrate her half-birthday (you may remember that we do this in my family) by baking a chocolate cake with vanilla icing — her flavor request. i so can’t handle this combo aesthetically because to me it’s like wearing black socks with white shoes, so i make the icing lavender and then it seems like a brown/pastel baby shower theme from 2004. a wee more acceptable.

mini-garland half-birthday gluten free sweetness

i made her a half-birthday crown as my sixth needle felting project ever, with a little embroidery and hand-beading. i think i love it more than she does, but i’m okay with that.

various views of the half-birthday crown

and in reflecting in all of the happenings of the month of july, i see my process so clearly. i always require a great deal of preparation and incubation before something new is born. july felt as tiring and as full of nesting as the third trimester of pregnancy felt. it’s clear to me in hindsight that i should have been maxin’ and chillaxin’ and enjoying those spare hours of july rather than “shoulding” it away. in observing myself throughout july, i can see that something is about to hatch…


here’s to new creations on the horizon…



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  • Miss Dana

    Thank you for reminding me to breathe into each day and allow the creative energy to ebb and flow unjudged. Why is that so hard? LOL!

  • Helen

    Jen, your crown is beautiful! I love the needle felted scene.

  • Katherine Puchniak

    I feel shoulda’d alot. Its nice to hear from someone who broke free from that!! It looks like alot of fun!

  • danielle

    i just zipped over from Tinkerlab and read your blog for the first time. The month of July has been a simlair experience for me. I have been nesting but in a dumping, reorganizing, moving and reprioritizing way. I have been Obsessed and have seen great results, but last night the tears came. I’m exhausted. …… And because im obsessed i was going to spend today working on my next reorganizing task, but having read your post, i’m going to use August for resting. My desire to get back to work and create is so strong i’m panicing a little. Thanks for reminding me that being creative is as much a process as creativity itself. good luck to you.

  • oof, “breaking free” is a process for me. it’s something i’m always needing practice with myself…

  • thank you, helen!

  • it is HARD, right?!? thank you for sharing this piece.

  • thank you for sharing this, danielle! hope you’ve had a restful august!

  • How do you make the paper plate weaving. I find that really awsome!

  • Heather N

    I miss your blog posts, but I imagine that you are busy creating, living, and just being.

  • hi heather! i miss it in a way, too… i have been focused on my art therapy practice and motherhood lately, and am contemplating how to weave those pieces back into the blogosphere. thank you for checking in again. stay tuned…

  • hi aurora! i haven’t perfected the paper plate weaving yet… well, at least the part where you remove it from the plate. that seems to be a bit of a challenge still. these visuals might help you to get started: