Creative environments

Creativity is the ability to produce or develop original work, theories, techniques, or thoughts. An environment is the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded.

The creative process is iterative: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification. It is very rare that these steps are taken over a short period of time, so the creative environment will change depending on which stage you are at.

The preparation phase is when you put in the work to explore the problem and it’s dimensions. This may take many years of in depth study, or it may be half an hour of googling a topic. Either way, you need an environment where you can access reference material, make notes on the current solutions and approaches and equip yourself with the required knowledge. You also need other people, whether they be teachers, fellow students or subject matter experts. Preparation cannot be done in isolation.

The incubation phase is internalising the problem into your unconscious mind. The environment for this is everyday life. There are many mechanical tasks that we have to perform – cooking, walking the dog, driving to work and so on. These are perfect distractions for the accumulation of preparation to absorb into your mind without you needing to do anything special.

The illumination phase (or lightbulb moment) is when the creative idea emerges into your consciousness. This spark can happen anywhere, so a note taking method is needed until you are in a better environment to receive the idea.

The verification phase is when you elaborate on the initial idea and apply it to the problem at hand. The appropriate environment is domain specific. It could be an art studio for a painter, a quiet office for a mathematician or a state of the art computer setup for a programmer. You will also need other people to provide feedback for the verification process.

In summary, there is not really one single creative environment for all your needs. It will adapt and change with the creative process you go through to produce that final creation


This post is my submission for the May 2024 IndieWeb Blog Carnival, hosted this month by Juha-Matti Santala. If you have a blog, why not make a post on this topic and join in?

I look forward to reading your thoughts on this topic.

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