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CREATIVE PROCESS TIMELINE




CREATIVE PROCESS TIMELINE

Process:

/ˈpräˌses,ˈprōˌses/

a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

Creative

/krēˈādiv/

relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Put them together and you get:

Creative Process:

A series of steps involving the imagination to achieve a particular end especially in the production of an artistic work.

When talking about creative process, it’s very important to understand that everyone’s is different. One of the biggest breakthroughs I made as a writer was understanding what my process was and trusting it. I was only able to figure that out after writing for a decade or so. If you’re not there yet, perhaps this suggested Creative Process Timeline might be helpful.

STEP ONE: Get The Idea (or a blob of potential greatness)

Ideas can come from anywhere. Some ideas are borne from true events, strange occurrences or an imagining of a particular kind of character. Some ideas come from someone paying you to write their idea. For all intents and purposes, step one is the idea… a form of something cool that could end up being a great…. something… but what?  At this stage, you’ve got a bunch of notes on scenes that could be cool OR characters that sound cool or do cool things OR events that just have to be told because they’re just so cool OR a burning desire to explore one of the human conditions that won’t leave you so you just have to write about it but you don’t know what IT is yet, it’s just an idea… or a blob of potential greatness.

STEP TWO: Decide The Form

At some point you will be ready to move on from the blobs of notes in your notebook and decide on a form. Most ideas have the potential to be one of a few things: a novel, a movie, a television show, a stage play or a podcast. How do you decide which form your idea should take? This is a question ONLY YOU can answer. I’ve sat across from many a writer asking me to tell them what shape their blob should take… and the answer is… Whatever shape you want it to. I usually give this advice: when you think of your story, are you seeing it in beautiful visuals, set in many different locations, with many different characters moving at a fast pace? That’s probably a screenplay. Is your story character based, can you easily parcel out moments of their lives in small snippets until you reach the whole? That’s probably a television show or a podcast. If you’re hearing the language of the idea speaking to you in long descriptive paragraphs, it’s probably a novel. And if your idea is an intimate look at a piece of the human condition that can be revealed gradually until it’s finally laid bare for an audience sitting together experiencing it in real time… it’s probably a play.

STEP THREE: Structure

You’ve got your idea and have made a firm decision on what form you want it to take. Now it’s time to start looking at the STORY of your idea. Very important to sit with that. What is the STORY of your idea? Your idea is not a story. Your idea is the heart of a story but it’s not the story. Your story needs to be crafted.  This is the point in my process where I begin to mercilessly steal from other people. No, seriously. If I’ve decided I’m writing an action movie, I will watch every great action movie out there and look at how they structured their story. This is also the time where I will pull out Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and begin to see the JOURNEY of my story. Remember what Aristotle says: YOUR STORY IS AN ACTION. What is the action of your story?  What is the overarching structure that you are going to hang your walls and curtains on? Some people might say… spine. What is the spine of your story? This is also the time where I specifically decide on the point of view.

STEP FOUR: Card the story (plot)

Oooohhh… this is when it gets exciting. And this is the part that everybody skips. Don’t be everybody. I promise you… if you learn this part… if you can card a story… you can write anything. Not easily. Writing is never easy… But you will know that you CAN do it and so you will. This process takes the most time. This process requires locking yourself in your room, leaving your cell phone outside and staring at a cork board and not moving on to the next card until you’re satisfied that the previous card has an event that pushes your story forward… never move on to the next card unless your character is in a situation, has made a decision and that decision causes something to happen that pushes the story forward. In. Every. Scene.

Honestly, there are few better feelings than pinning up that final card, if you’ve done your job here correctly. When I am hired to write a screenplay, I usually say it will take me at least four months because I know I will be staring at a cork board for a minimum of two.

PRO TIP: take a picture of your board. Take many pictures and save the pictures in your cloud, print them out, email them to yourself. God Forbid something should happen to that board.

STEP FIVE: Write The Sucker

Now comes the fun part. No, none of it was fun before this part. It was mean and nasty and painful. But now, now you have a glorious road map. Now… finally now… you can sit at the keyboard and let your creativity pour out onto your page through visuals and dialogue. You want to hear the most annoying rule of screenwriting? A rule that pissed me off so much when I didn’t understand the difference between writing and structure? Here it is.  One of the biggest, most important rules of screenwriting is:  Don’t “write” your structure. WHAT? … Yeah. It’s a whole ass blog post of its own.  Coming soon….

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