Incubation is the second step in the creative process… and the part that makes the end product taste better. New and expanding ideas have to stew and bump up against other ideas in your head, calling to ‘same’, culling through what has already been collected by you in the Preparation Stage [see CREATIVE PROCESS – STEP 1 : PREPARATION blog]. We need to incubate, trust this.
Incubation is harder than you think. In fact, you may actually have to tell yourself to leave the project alone to let your idea incubate. It’s like buying a really cool new artsy shirt you are excited about and then hiding it in your closet for awhile before you wear it, not even looking at it. You know it’s there but you have to keep resisting. With expanding ideas, however, there’s a bigger reason to wait than simply delaying gratification.
Incubation means leaving your current project idea simmering on a back burner … for a little while [don’t ask how long – a day to a year, really]. Stop pro-actively thinking about it and switch gears to complete some other tasks that need to be done in your life. Yep, you heard me, I just bossed you into completing your ongoing tasks like a school marm handing you a bucket of erasers to clap. You see, the creative process muscle strengthens when we complete things we need to do [laundry, calling the IRS, writing a blog, reading with our kids, walking the dog, grocery shopping, researching a new car and so on]. It’s something the brain does and we don’t need to go into the science of it… if you’ll believe me. I researched it! More parts of our brains are team players in the creative process than just the right and left brain.
Incubation doesn’t have any set time but it does need to be part of the beginning, middle and a maybe a little bit in end, if you have the time. The process is the portal through which conscious new thoughts travel to become more novel ideas as well as find their place in a current evolving idea [or sometimes replacing your current idea]. Let these thoughts travel and evolve. Send them back through the portal again and again until they are used or filed away for later.
Rushing is not a tool to use in connecting more with your creative process. Learn to incubate.
And for creativity’s sake, get an idea notebook, so you never lose a thought once it has arrived.
“Originality is unexplored territory. You get there by carrying a canoe – not taking a taxi.”
– Alan Alda