You don’t need processes for creativity

Do you need to have a set creative process in order to be successful?

I’m not so sure. If I have a process, I am not aware of it.

More often than not, my own “process” for doing creative work (whether it’s programming, designing, or tying sticks together using twine) is simply to tinker with ideas and the materials required to make them a reality. Just to see what happens. That’s not much of an established process in my opinion. Yet so many people want to label the drive to “tinker with stuff” as a “process.”

A good number of creative “experts” today are touting the benefits of relying on a personal system (of what exactly, they’re never clear) for producing creative work.

“What are your established habits for producing work?” they prompt us. “If you don’t have a set routine for your process, how can you know you’re ever doing work as opposed to twiddling your thumbs?” they question.

We live in a culture that values process because we want to believe that there is a set way to do things. That working diligently for years will produce rewards of equal or greater value. We want to believe that there is a set way to creative success, to having ideas, to fulfilling our artistic endeavors.

The reality is that there are no set ways to do things. There isn’t a right way to paint just as there isn’t a right way to innovate. The process of one individual may work for them, but it’s not likely to work for you. Ultimately, you have to find what works for you.

If other’s processes (or lack thereof) inspire you, that’s good, take those learnings and experiment with them.

But you know what? I don’t want to believe in any of that creative-marketing-mumbo-jumbo around processes or habits any more. I’ve never found it to be worthwhile advice for me, and those I’ve worked with tend to feel the same.

Process, habits, and routines for getting work done don’t matter nearly as much as two other things. In-fact, I would argue only two things matter for successfully doing creative work.

Curiosity and drive.

You can have the best habits in the world, you can sit facing a blank canvas or keyboard every morning for years, if that’s your thing, but without the curiosity to see what could happen when you press some of those keys or make some marks using a paintbrush, you’re wasting your time. The process is useless without the curiosity to move it forward.

Ultimately having drive – something that propels you to get out of bed in the morning and press the pencil to the paper or to take a different route to school or work – is what makes any one person more successful than the other. Well, drive and a bit of luck.

But even if you’re not particularly lucky, having the drive to continuously do and produce work you love, that you can be curious about, is an effective way to improve the odds that you’ll be successful.

Do routines and habits and processes work to help you? I’d like to believe they can. But if you’re focused on a ritual to get your creativity going at full-steam, without the curiosity or drive to keep it going once it is going, you’re going to miss-out on all of the opportunities to explore vastly more creative concepts.

If you are the type of person that needs routines and systematic approaches to work, that’s ok, find the process that works for you and hone it. If not, don’t stress about it.

In the end you need to build a sense of curiosity and find what drives you to create. Worry about those, the rest will follow naturally.

Illustration via Flickr.

See also:

Finding what works for you

Luck is an essential aspect of innovation

Ride a unicycle if you want better ideas