What Is The Mysterious Creative Process?

By Catherine Foster


Where Does The Creative Process Come From

and How Do We Activate It?




"Quest For Why #6" by Catherine Foster 

"Quest For Why #6" by Catherine Foster 

How does the creative process work?


Where do ideas come from? 




“The creative processes are so mysterious.”- Jimmy Webb


For centuries, this has been a question that has mystified humankind. What goes on in the human brain to activate the creative process? Some people believe that you need to be connected to a Muse in order to have a divine creative flow. For me it is like experiencing lightning bolts coming down through my brain to create “AHA” moments of inspiration and a quiet flow of inspiration.


The creative process has always fascinated me and I wonder, “ Is the creative process the same for an artist, sculptor, writer, dancer, singer, actor, song writer, software developer, designer etc.?” 


Is the creative process the same for everyone? I  can only express how the creative process works for me. How a light goes on in my head and how the energy moves when I am inspired must be similar to what a person who is a writer, singer, dancer etc.  

Quest For How by Catherine Foster

Quest For How

by Catherine Foster



“Ah, the creative process is the same secret in science as it is in art. They are all the same absolutely. “-Josef Albers

Many times when I want to create something new, I go to sleep and ask to be shown the answer to a new idea or help in solving a creative idea by morning. The answer often comes to me during this between time of sleep and being fully awake. It does feel like an AHA moment. I am a very visual, so often the answer to my question comes through images. There is a sensation in the brain as if something is being downloaded like images in slides or a movie that appears into my awareness. Other times it feels like waves of an emotion activating a memory that triggers my heart to explore in the physical.


“I discovered I was passionate about the creative process, the product development, creating a concept around a fragrance or lipstick.”- Aerin Lauder
Source picture: Pixaby

Source picture: Pixaby

The brain works through connections of neural pathways. Sometimes a smell will trigger an idea from a memory in the brain. This is also true of touch, sound, and taste. The brain will ignite an experience, feeling, thought, and memory of something you saw.


It is a process of putting the pieces of a puzzle together. One idea will lead to another idea as the brain gathers all the pieces together. These ideas may come from a childhood experience, a memory that was imprinted in your brain, food that tasted special, through dreams and maybe relationships. I call them snippets of memories that are like entries in a scrapbook in the brain. We can call up these snippets through meditation, looking at a photograph, holding something in our hands, and or even going out into nature. 


“I discovered I was passionate about the creative process, the product development, creating a concept around a fragrance or lipstick.”- Aerin Lauder


Our brains naturally do this gathering process selecting bits and pieces to sort through. It is much like developing a collage of feelings, experiences and more together for a completed picture or physical representation.


“The creative process is mysterious; a conversation, a ride in the car, or a melody can trigger something.”- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu



What is the truth about creativity?  Everyone is creative. Yes, I will say that again. “EVERYONE IS CREATIVE!” 

You were born with it. Have you ever watched a baby to see how their brain works when they get an idea? Watch as their eyes light up? It is such a special experience to watch a child paint or draw. To us it may look like scribbles, but to them it is a real event, feeling or physical image that their brain is expressing. Igniting the creative process as an adult can be an exciting adventure. 




So many people I talk to say "I am not creative!"  But they are. Everyone has a different way of expressing their creativity.  Some people love to cook and that is there way of being creative. Others are creative on the computer. Some people are creative in the garden.  Being creative does not just apply to people who paint,write books, compose songs, sing, dance etc.  It is just a matter of finding out what creativity is in a person's heart that is waiting to be developed.


What are the Important Steps to Accessing Your Creativity?



STEP 1-The INTENT to create comes first. The desire to be creative or solve a problem is part of that intent.  Combine intent with the belief that you can accomplish something creative.


One thought will lead to another thought to put the puzzle together. Your subconscious will take the intent and start the flow of the creative process. What happens is the brain will run through the neurons connecting feelings, experiences, thoughts,  and images. Sometimes it may feel like little light bulbs going off in the brain as one  connection lights up another connection and so forth. Visually I see it as a fabric of light with each connecting thread marking a point of creativity being ignited.  What an incredible brain we have.  If you have a project you want to work on, or a problem to solve, or maybe a true desire of some creative need to feel fulfilled, the brain can naturally work on it. This process may happen fast or be slow depending on how the ideas come to you. It is all good.


As Sinead O’Conner says,

My creative process is quite slow. I hear melodies in my head while I'm washing the dishes and I allow my subconscious to do the work”.


I love how creative ideas come while I am immersed in water. It can be a magical time of connecting with nature for inspiration. Often for me, this happens in the shower after my morning meditation. Maybe it is washing away any blocks to being creative to allow new ideas to be sparked in my brain? What do you feel when you wash away any blocks to being creative?


source: pixels.com

“Music is always a creative process that comes from the heart. It's a feeling, a vibration, that we ride on.”- Maurice White


STEP 2-RELEASE any fear that you will not be able to set the creative process in motion. If you do not believe you can accomplish something, guess what? It will not happen. We live in a world where are thoughts are so very powerful. What we think about is what we experience. Remove any negative thoughts first to make way for your brain to be open and the flow to begin.


Earth Has A Headache by Catherine Foster

Earth Has A Headache by Catherine Foster

Know that every day each of us has thousands of negative thoughts pass through our brains. The brain thinks that it is protecting us. If we can just think 51% more positive thoughts, magic can happen.

Sometimes I ask that the left side of my brain, the logical analytical side, go take a walk out in nature or go window shopping while the right side of the brain has time to allow the flow of creativity to ignite. What steps are you taking to spark the creative flow in your life?

Source picture: Pixaby

Source picture: Pixaby

 The creative process is not controlled by a switch you can simply turn on or off; it's with you all the time.”-Alvin Ailey








Here are just a few that I use: 



A.     Sit in a quiet place to meditate. This maybe a place that feels special to you. Meditation does not have to take a long time to be effective. Five minutes of focused meditation can make a shift in your brain and body. Get comfortable, close your eyes and breathe in letting any thoughts that want to invade your quiet time pass by in your brain. Just breathe in and out at a comfortable pace. Your body will let you know when you have reached a relaxed open mind to begin the creative process.


B.    What can happen if you freeze up and can not allow you to start?  Have you sat looking at your prepared supplies not knowing how to start?  Sometimes I would look at a piece of canvas, to find myself sitting and staring for what seemed forever. Has something like this experience also been yours? The solution: make one mark, or one paint splash or imprint in the clay you want to sculpt.

 *Then you can take a deep breath and begin the creative process. Just one change in your energy will start the flow.


C.    Sometimes the creative flow will stop when you are in the middle of something creative. Maybe there was a shift in your energy and you just feel stuck! Do not push it if this happens to you. Does your body tighten up? Do you start to get a headache because you just do not know what is next to do? The muse inside you is not talking?

 *When you feel like nothing is happening creatively, take yourself on a walk in nature. Practicing walking and breathing. Breathe in to the count of 7 through your nose and out your mouth to the count of 7 as you walk. Keep this process going. Let your mind be void of any thought except being conscious of where you are walking and your breath. With intent, shake out your hands any extra energy that is blocking your creativity. 

Earth Has a Headache by Catherine Foster

Earth Has a Headache by Catherine Foster


“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.”- Julia Cameron


D.     Here is an activity that can activate both sides of your brain. Using cross-lateral movement you can balance both sides of your brain and get the creative energy moving.

a. Stand with your feet about a foot apart in the neutral position.

b. Step with your left leg over the right leg and at the same time take your right arm to cross your body over to the left side.

c. Then step back to the central position.

d. Next take a step with your right leg crossing over your left leg and your left arm crosses over your body to the right side.

e. Then move again back to neutral position.

f.Keep up a rhythm of this exchange back and forth for at least ten times or more. You can do it to music and/or follow with the music in your brain and move to the rhythm your body wants to create. 

g. Take a deep breath. Relax. Know that you are ready to dive into your creative process and have some FUN!


Source Picture: Pixaby

Source Picture: Pixaby

STEP 3- PREPARE a space to create in. Gather ideas. Maybe write down on paper any thoughts that come through your brain.  Try writing without even consciously thinking  and let your subconscious allow ideas flow. Sometimes I write with the opposite hand than my dominant hand. Your writing might seem a little sloppy but there may be new ideas that come through your subconscious. Circle the written words that are similar. Where do you see repeated words and phrases? These are clues to what your subconscious is wanting to be expressed. 

You might like to draw an image in your journal or just scribble something. Allow yourself  to be immersed in the flow of the process. Just have some fun with this. Explore some thoughts, feelings, smells, sounds, or dreams. Ask your body to remember everything you experience in this exercise. You can lock the memory in by touching a special spot on your body, maybe your third eye or your heart. Instruct your body to remember these images, feelings, and thoughts every time you touch that trigger spot. 

Try asking for help from your muse or an angel to ignite the flow for you.  Then prepare a place to work. I have often used the dining table to work on if I do not have space in my studio. I will take my drawings, or written ideas and spread them out on the table and just pull up one to start something. This especially works if I do not have a specific intent and idea to start with.


Source picture: Pixaby 

Source picture: Pixaby 

Gather paints, clay, paper, odd collections of stuff. I love creating collages and will take a piece of fabric on the floor and spread out my treasured menagerie. Things like old paintings, scraps of fabrics, metal, beads etc. Something will catch my eye to get the process going. The more choices I have to create a collage or a painting the more chances of finding just the right image or item to use.

Do not worry about making a mess or having clutter. Out of chaos comes genius. You can always clean it up afterwards. The process is more valuable than the end product. What you experience in the present time while creating has huge value in our lives. That time with yourself and the creative process will not be the same again. Savor this special time.  


“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”- Scott Adams

"The Path To Creativity" by Catherine Foster

"The Path To Creativity" by Catherine Foster


STEP 4- TAKE ACTION and never worry about making a mistake. Some of my best artwork has come from mistakes. Often the mistakes are better than anything that one could plan to do. It could lead to a new process of creating or doing something that you never would have thought of before.  Be ok with experimenting and playing. 

When you relax your body and mind, remember what it felt like to be a child. Do you have a memory of drawing in the moment whatever came to your mind? The brain can be triggered to activate more creativity by being in the act of PLAY!


source picture: pixaby

source picture: pixaby

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." - Pablo Picasso


Take a moment and go within. Maybe close your eyes and remember a time when you were a child and creating something.  What creative activity interested you as a child? Ask your body to remember the best time you ever had as a child playing and creating something special.


When we come from a sense of play, it takes out the worry of having to have something turn out perfect.

Keep the critic out of your thoughts. When and if that happens, ask the critic to go take a walk. “ I chuckle at this!”  Sometimes the critic can be a family member or a friend who wants to infuse their idea of what you need to do. Do not listen to anyone else. Being creative is about tuning into your own body, mind and spirit and letting your unique creativity flow. Each person has special gifts to give to the world. Trust your instincts! The world wants you to share your world. When we allow others to see through our eyes, our creativity, we can help others open to their unique gifts. 

Take action on your ideas. Your brain will take over when you play and follow your own instincts. This becomes a magical time. I call it the “Time of No Time’ or being in the zone.

There were times when I got our children off to school and started painting. Before I knew it, it was time for them to come home. I was so immersed in the creative flow, I would forget to even eat because the inner muse had taken over. 


"In The Zone" by Catherine Foster

"In The Zone" by Catherine Foster

STEP 5- FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION  Stop for a moment and remember a feeling, event, thought that was special to you. Follow your intuition and the energy that comes from that memory. Let your hands do the creation without the left side of your critical brain taking over. Be aware of the sounds, the smells, the sense of touch that came with that memory? Did it have a color associated with it?How can you express what that felt like? 


Be careful not to push the creative process. When I try to make a painting be what I want it to be, it just does not happen. But when I keep an open dialogue with the artwork, listen, and follow what the artwork wants, it works.

Often the creative flow will feel like a wave of energy as it passes through your body. Just keep it going. You will know when to stop when the energy is not flowing anymore.


Maybe you will finish your project or creative piece or not. Following no. 4, remember it is about play. When you feel you have exhausted the creative flow thank the universe for this special time.  

Clean up or not and take a step back. Sometimes at this point I will put the piece I worked on away out of site. This could be for later in the day, or month or even sometimes for months.


Sometimes it is hard to know when to stop!



Release the critic inside you to drift away. When we get critical of what we have created what happens? It is easy to loose site of what actually happened during your creative experience. Your brain will trigger you and let you know when to go back to what you were creating and do more or not. It is what it is and that is perfect. The creative process is more valuable than the end product. Not to say that the end product is not valuable, but the time you spend in the "Zone" creating is something you can not recreate. For me, it becomes my "Church" and the connection to source. CELEBRATE!






STEP 6- CELEBRATE! Yes it is time to celebrate being in the flow of the creative spirit.Even if your creation did not come out like you wanted it to. Even if you got angry and ripped it up! Even if you fear no one else will like what you created! Celebrate you! Celebrate your special time with yourself. That 1s what it really is all about.

Source Picture: Pixaby

Source Picture: Pixaby

“Being at the genesis of the creative process is definitely something I want to keep doing. It's just such a great buzz.” Chris O'Dowd

To recap:

*The creative process starts first with intent.

*Second gather ideas and prepare a place to create.

*Third, strengthen your belief in yourself that you are creative and release any negative thoughts. Relax into the flow. 

*Fourth, take action and have fun. Be in a state of play.


 “There is a special time between the spark of inspiration and the completed piece that marks both reality and total immersion. The end product becomes a physical manifestation of this creative process that has the ability to stir something deep within us with its mysterious beauty.” - Catherine Foster


Catherine Foster Artist/Author/Creativity Coach 

Catherine Foster Artist/Author/Creativity Coach 

Learn how to activate your creativity. Are you blocked and need some help? Catherine is an expert in the creative process. Go to  now to schedule an appt. with Catherine at: http://www.fostervisionaryguidance.com/coaching-sessions

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