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Beyond the idea – does your creative process stop too short?

By Andrew Boulton

December 7, 2018 | 4 min read

Unlike, say, reshoeing a horse or sculpting a topiary dolphin, professional creativity is a task without obvious end.

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As such, a great many creatives have trouble determining the right time to put the pencil down. Too early, and your metaphorical hedge animal is ragged and indistinct. Too late and you've inadvertently lopped off a flipper.

It's a matter of 'enough', or rather knowing the distinction between an enough that still awaits you and one you have already scuttled past.

As creative challenges go, determining when your idea has achieved the state of enoughness, is right up there with being gracious to colleagues who are both stupider and more successful than you are.

It would undoubtedly be simpler if the creative process was a straight and steady line of necessary stops. 'This' means 'that' which leads us, invariably to a ‘well then'. Like a tube line, only without the smell of sodden humanity.

Instead, developing a creative idea is more like taking a drunken shortcut through your neighbours’ back gardens. We leap fences, drag ourselves through hedgerows, launch ourselves ambitiously from children's trampolines. There is no timetable for such a journey, no helpful announcements.

Also, enough is a meandering, misanthropic imp, reluctant to show itself at all, let alone at an easily anticipated moment.

The trick then is to calculate whether you have an easterly or westerly relationship to enough – does she most often dangle out of reach, or does she impatiently tap her foot as you ramble by?

More often it is the former – with creatives having a tendency to form their own tunnels around an inspirational light.

In this scenario you aren't so much building a bonfire of ideas but rather dashing excitedly away with a single candle, forfeiting all else to retain this one delicate flicker.

In this situation your instinct should not be to protect a promising idea, but to kick it in the shins. This is where you should assemble a panel of jealous rivals, other ideas who would happily slash the first one's windpipe to elevate their own standing.

By doing this, you present yourself with two possible outcomes – one, you supplant your idea with a better one or two, you demonstrate unequivocally the primacy of the original.

But it can only happen if you resist proclaiming this exciting thought as the end of your toil – instead of the beginning of a new creative tributary.

We talk so much of resilience in our business, the need to prepare and protect yourself from external rejection. But really, that resilience should manifest as an act of creative self-immolation – deliberately torching our ideas so that, when someone else reaches for the matchbox, all the most flammable parts have already been burnt away and rebuilt.

Creatives must be hero and baddie, bringing an idea into the world – and then ruthlessly dunking that idea to prove it's not a witch.

Ultimately 'enough' doesn't fill any defined space. There is no green light, no reassuring ping. There is no ribbon in your sketch book to indicate an unequivocal finishing line. Enough is measured in one thing, and one thing alone. It's enoughness.

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