The Creative Cycle

I’ve noticed a pattern, it reveals itself through my mood and my energy, my self esteem and my ego, and my vigor or my listlessness. I refer to this pattern as the Creative Cycle.

Credit for this one goes to my two year old son

The three acts of the Creative Cycle

Act I: Inspired

Act II: Acting

Act III: Lost

How we move between acts

Act I to Act II

Act II to Act III

Act III to Act I

Major and minor cycles

Some cycles are big and occur over years or decades. With major cycles, we don’t feel the presence of the acts all the time, they drift in and out of our attention as we go about our day-to-day. But when an act of a major cycle is present and within our attention, particularly Act III, it can be severe and very difficult.

Major cycles

Act I
2007–2009: I think I want to be a designer

Act II
2010–2019: Train, become, and act as a designer

Act III
2020: Do I see myself being a designer for another ten years?

Minor cycles

Act I
09:00: Hockney‘s use of colour feels obvious at first glance but when you consider them, the colours are radically different to the reality of his subject matter.

Act II
11:00: Paint with a new palette

Act III
17:00: Why does this feel lacking in depth and energy?

Recognising and moving forward

The challenge is to manage how much this cycle bleeds beyond the realm of the work and into our being. Our being could mean our ability to be present with our family, to uphold our duties in homelife, to enjoy the company of friends, or to sleep easily.

There’s no one culprit to blame in the cycle. No single act which we can say is evil or causes all the trouble. The Creative Cycle can bleed into our being no matter which act we’re in. When I’m inspired, I wake at 4am ready to seek more and yearning to move into action. When I’m lost, I also wake at 4am in search of an answer.

The creative cycle affects different people in different ways. Sometimes a cycle can feel severe and consuming. Other times, fun and manageable. When severe cycles happen, either a major one or many minor ones, the hardest part is moving to the next act. Dwelling in Act III for too long can cause you to seize up; the longer you spend there, the harder it is to move.

Recognising this cycle and making sense of it, as I feel I have done for myself, can help us move around the cycle to the next act. By noticing which act we’re in and bringing it to our attention we can now seek out a way forward or else we may dwell too long and cease to create.

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Creative Partner at Same. We help purpose-led organisations make digital products that matter. https://www.projectsbysame.com

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