Ep. 18: The Creativity Quest

We are launching a new series as we enter the second year of the podcast! We’re so glad to have all our listeners on this journey with us as we explore new ways to help writers embrace their creativity and conscious living.

Gina does most of the heavy lifting in this episode. She introduces her Creativity Quest framework by providing an overview of how it is designed to help writers plan, unplan, and get unstuck throughout the writing process. Future episodes will have us digging into each step in the cycle in depth. Melody brings in how the different stages of the Creativity Quest relate to the Seasons for Writers and ways that we can use both perspectives to become clearer about how we engage with our work. KimBoo, meanwhile, complains about all the ideas she has for stories she wants to write!

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Ep.18: The Creative Cycle


Dave Hogan, Gina’s Pop
Welcome to Around the Writer’s Table, a podcast focusing on the crossroads of creativity, craft, and conscious living for writers of all ages and backgrounds. Your hosts are Gina, Melody, and KimBoo, three close friends and women of a certain age, who bring to the table their eclectic backgrounds and unique perspectives on the trials, tribulations, and the joys of writing. So pull up a chair and get comfortable here around the writer’s table.

KimBoo York
Hey, y’all. Welcome back to Around the Writer’s Table. and we’re so glad to join you. We’re kicking off a whole new thing. And I’m really excited about it. Gina has given me and Melody a little bit of a sneak peek at it. And it’s going to be so helpful for authors, not just beginning authors. I know the last couple episodes where we talked about editing, if you want those episodes, they’re great. Go back and listen to them, but those were very newbie oriented, I think a lot of ways. But at this point when we’re moving into talking about the creativity cycle, and Gina’s gonna go into a lot of detail on that. I’ll let you wait in suspense. But this will be helpful to authors at all levels and at all stages of your writing career. So thanks for joining us on this journey. My name is KimBoo York. I’m a romance novelist and former project manager who helps writers and solopreneurs find time, mojo, and motivation to create, including myself, which is my journey right now. I’ve also got my co-host Melody, A Scout. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself, my friend?

Melody, A Scout
Thanks, KimBoo. Welcome, listeners. My name is Melody, A Scout and I help my clients find their sense of home by restoring balance and harmony to their lives through plant spirit medicine and my book Soul of the Seasons.

Gina Hogan Edwards
Hi, everybody. This is Gina. I’m glad to be with you too. It’s, I’m excited about our topic today. I am passionate about helping women, particularly women writers, find their voice through writing, understand what they’re thinking, understand what their values are, understand what they want to share with the world in terms of words on the page.

And we’ve got so much to cover in this episode. So I’m not going to spend too long on the introduction, more than we’ve already done. So Gina, tell us about the creativity cycle. That’s what we’re going to be doing an overview, this episode, right? So let’s just jump into that. What are we going? What are we doing? What can you tell us?

So what I’d like to do today is just give you sort of a brief overview of what I call the 10 stages of creativity. Now, for you listeners, this is something that I’ve come up with after a couple of decades of working with women writers at all levels of experience, in all stages of their own writing journey. This cycle includes 10 stages, as I mentioned, and I’m just going to briefly go over what each stage entails. And ladies, I want to hear from each of you as I go through these. But first I want to touch on a couple of aspects of this cycle. It is a cycle for a number of reasons. We don’t experience our creative journey in a linear fashion.

That’s the truth.

There are certain stages of the cycle that we might get hung up in. There are certain stages of the cycle that we might do what I call ‘looping.’ We will loop back through sometimes multiple times before we have what we need or experience what we need or think what we need to think in order to move to the next stage. But there is a reason, beyond the fact that it is not a linear process, that I call this a cycle. I definitely want you women to chime in on this because I know you have some perspectives about how important the cycle is and how many different ways we experience cycles in our lives. You know, obviously, as women, we have a cycle. There are so many other things in our lives that we experience as cycles.

And we were just talking a few minutes ago about how life is cycles and seasons. Everything goes through this process. So I know we’re fond, our little brains are fond of thinking in linear fashion, or if A then B but I rarely, if ever, find that is the path my journey takes me on, whether it’s in or personnel or writing, or creativity.

And I’d just like to add, yeah, Melody, you don’t talk about it a lot, but you are also a landscape designer. You work with plants, and you work with your clients on creating environments for plants. So there’s, I’m sure that that feeds into a little bit of how you see cycles, because I don’t do plants at all, man. Like, I don’t, I don’t. I’m the black thumb or the family, right. So I was just thinking of that while you were talking about it, because it’s not just as women, as people. Like the cycles are all around us.

Absolutely. And that’s why I wrote my book, because the connection between the natural world and as a gardener, and a landscaper makes it so obvious. I get so many of my interpersonal interior lessons from the natural world. So that is a great way to observe the seasons and cycles of life. And, just guess what, when you observe nature, you don’t find nature kicking and screaming the whole way, because now it’s moving from spring into the heat of summer. It’s like, “Nope, we’re gonna adapt, we’re gonna get ready for it, we’re gonna do what we need to do to get through the next season. And to flourish.”

I love the fact too, that, you know, here we are in the season of spring, and that we’re launching off onto this new perspective of looking at the stages of the creativity cycle. So let’s, I’m going to summarize, there are 10 stages. And each one, I’ve come up with a particular name for it. And I’m going to avoid my temptation to talk deeply about each one as I get into it, because there are several of these that really resonate with me. And so as I describe these, ladies, I’m going to have some questions for you afterwards, about which ones may resonate with you. So.

And I’d just like to break in really quick to let listeners know, if you go to our website, there is a handout, so that you know, don’t feel like you have to write down each one, as she’s saying them. We’ve got a handout, you can either go download that now, to follow along while she’s describing these, or you can do it afterwards. Like, we’re not going to be, there’s not going to be a pop quiz at the end of this. But just, it’s going to be a lot of information. So I just wanted our listeners to know that we’re going to have resources to help them keep track of it all. 

Yeah, thank you, KimBoo. And also, the reason we’re doing this overview is because in our future episodes, we are going to be taking each one, one by one, and doing a deep dive into each stage. And so that’s why we’re just sort of doing this overview now to give you an idea of where we’re going to be going over the next few months. 

So the first stage of the creativity cycle I like to call Carrying Inner Disquiet. So to give you the best example of what I mean by that, this is usually the stage when a creative is not creating. And yet there is this recognition, either consciously or subconsciously, that there is something off-kilter. And a lot of times that sort of feeling of being off-kilter or that something is missing is oftentimes a longing for deeper meaning. And that’s what we often find through our creativity. 

And so this stage of the creative cycle is unfortunately, a stage that many of us can get stuck in for years. We’re not creating, but we want to be. We’re not creating, but we put other things as a priority. We’re not creating, and yet we want to be creating, and yet we’re not creating. 

If we’re fortunate, we get to move on to the next stage. That stage, which gets us closer to being able to really dive into creating, I call Releasing. It’s releasing resistance. It’s releasing clutter in our lives. It’s releasing distractions. It might even mean releasing people, places, or things, the nouns in our lives. It is a stage when there is a willingness to do something about the disquiet and about that longing for meaning-making. 

The third stage then I call Emulating and Mirroring. A lot of these sorts of models about creativity and the artist’s journey will leave this stage out. But I think it’s very important because this is a muscle-building stage. It is when we have beginner’s mind, and we’re learning and absorbing. Sometimes we may emulate those that we respect in our field, whatever our artistic endeavor is, and that is great when we are in the learning phase. But after a while, that’s going to start feeling a little dissatisfying. So it’s important not to get stuck there, it’s a step toward trying to find our true voice. But if we stay in that stage, that true voice will never surface. 

The fourth stage, I call Assessing and Acknowledging, and this is where the artist’s true creative voice starts to show up. The artist is capable of reviewing what they’ve learned, recognizing that there’s been some growth there. For a writer, this might be a stage when critique groups or peer feedback comes into play. It’s often a really unpopular stage, because it causes us to do some inner reflection. Sometimes this can feel a little uncomfortable. And so it’s an unpopular stage. The getting through and beyond this stage really requires the creative person to have some intense honesty with themselves, to know that there might be places where they need to go back and learn more, or that they’re ready to step away and move on to the next stage. So sometimes a lot of fear, fear of judgment, fear of imperfection, sometimes cocooning can happen here and get you stuck in that assessing and acknowledging stage or cause you to move back to the emulating stage. 

However, when we can take ownership, and that is the next stage, Taking Ownership of our voice. This is when our authenticity shows up. This is when we’re able to step away from our mentors and our teachers and do some exploration into greater mastery. There is a saying of, “I’m the one I’ve been waiting for.” And this is the stage when that starts to show up and we really start to get some momentum. 

That will then move us into the next stage, which I call Inviting Authentic Existence. And I’m going to pause here, this is the sixth stage. And those first five stages that I just mentioned, largely require us to do a lot of inner work. And the sixth through the 10th stages require us to do more outer work. So Inviting Authentic Existence is when we are opening up to this new way of being, you know, really claiming that voice as we did in that taking ownership stage, but we’re stepping into kind of a new world. It’s unfamiliar territory, because we might be at the stage when we’re starting to share more, when we’re recognizing that it’s good to celebrate what we have done so far. It’s a stage of acceptance of consequences of the art that we’re doing. And that sounds a little bit ominous. And that’s why it can also be an uncomfortable stage. But we want to be open to inviting our own authenticity to be forefront in our world. 

Like I said, please feel free to interject whatever you’d like. I hear some, I hear some acknowledgement in the background, but I don’t hear much anytime you’d like to. 

So the next stage after Inviting Authentic Existence is Verifying and Testing. Now in this stage, challengers might begin to show up. You will have experienced some of that in the Assessing and Acknowledging stage. But this is again when you might be showing your work out there more. And so there could be some judgment showing up. There could be some recognition that what you’re putting out there may not be accepted by everyone. There will also be some allegiances created in this stage. You will be able to verify who your supporters are at this stage. And so you’re going to begin to filter out between those who understand what’s happening for you and what you’re sharing, and those who don’t understand it. So that’s what verifying and testing is all about. 

The next stage after that is Integrate and Dedicate. And this is when the creative person really starts to wear that identity of being a creative person, being a writer, being an artist, taking off those masks that we sometimes tend to hide behind. There’s no more compartmentalizing of the creative parts of their life from the rest of their life. It’s a full integration and a dedication and a devotion to the creative aspects of their life. That’s one I can talk a lot about, but I don’t want us to get too hung up on each stage. 

So I’m going to move on to the ninth stage, which I call Three Feet From Gold. And the reason I call it that is-–I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the story of the miner. He hears that there is gold in this one cave. And so he takes his pickaxe, and he goes into the mine, and he chops and he chops and he chops until he gets blisters on his hands. And then he gets tired, and he rests, and then he chops and he chops away at the rock some more. And he thinks he sees a vein, but he’s not sure. And he needs to take a rest. So he does. And then he gets another wind, and he chops, and he chops, and he chops, and he’s doing all the hard work that you need to do to get to that vein of gold, but he’s really getting exhausted, but he keeps chopping away, and he keeps chopping away. And then finally, at some point, he just can’t do it any longer. And he just gives up. And what he doesn’t realize is he was only three feet from gold. That’s all he had between him and the gem that he was looking for. So this stage Three Feet From Gold is when the creative person is probably going to meet more challenges than they ever have. It’s a really tough stage. And it’s when the author or the creative person either makes the decision to keep at it or to walk away.

That one hits hard. 

Yeah, that’s a tough one. If the creative decides at that point that they’re going to continue, then they go into that 10th stage, which I call Your Essence Expressed. And that is when there’s 100% ownership of the creative life. There can be massive productivity at this stage. It is the level that all of us strive to attain. It’s when we are most visible, and so that’s also the stage when we can really be the most open to hecklers, or to judgment. And again, each of these stages, and especially this one, can cause us to loop back through other stages of the cycle to maybe repeat something that we didn’t quite learn as well as we needed to. 

So these are just the highlights from each one of the 10 stages of the creative cycle that I have seen writers that I have worked with go through. So I’d like to hear from you ladies about what I’ve talked about here and particularly: Is there a stage that just in general sort of really resonated with you? Or is there a stage that you feel like you’re really in right now and so it resonates with you because you’re experiencing it and why?

I love the way that you softballed that towards us. Thanks. 

Who’s gonna catch?

A couple of these hit right between the eyes with me. The first time you showed me this process, Gina, it was like brilliant. It was so many ahas for me, going through my creative cycle myself in finishing my book Soul of the Seasons. And you know, a lot of us writers love that Emulating and Mirroring. I call it, it’s part of the spring cycle where all the new ideas are popping, and there’s lots of fun stuff going on, and that’s what feels juicy. And then we get, you know, bogged down into the trenches. And I love that story of the miner because the Three Feet From Gold is one that I personally have been challenged with. And I found a lot of other creative people get challenged to this point and abandon their projects. And during the writing of the book, I hit that wall when Gina gave me the final edits. And after, I know…

I’m sorry. That feeling is so relatable. Like, Gina has never given me final edits, but I can totally understand where you’re coming from.

There was like, well, you know, after about 1,156 revisions on my book, and, you know, working eight hour days, literally doing some of the final edits in it, and then coming back, and then there was this what looked like an enormous, long list of changes. I’m like, Huh? I did not like you right then, Gina.

I get that.

That’s the true essence of the editor-writer relationship. It’s like pure love, and also, I didn’t like you right then.

Yeah. Love you. Mean it, but go away. And she gave me some great advice for it. She said, “Go in, do the thing, and get out and get it done. Don’t go over passages. Don’t read it as you go along. Just do the thing, and get in and get out.” And that when I started doing that, that made it more manageable. I could manage that.

That took you that extra three feet?

Yes. Yeah. It did. Because that was a hard push. I mean, I was exhausted. Really, I mean, we’re talking nine years of the writing process and all that it took to get through it. I was exhausted. I was like really? More? Really?

That’s a great example, too, because so many writers feel as if, when they can let go of their manuscript and pass it off to an editor, that their job is done. That’s it. And they feel like they’ve hit that vein of gold when no, they still have three more feet to go.

Yeah. And I would not have been happy had I let it—I was so tempted. Like, it can’t be that serious. I would not have been happy with my manuscript had I not pushed and got those last three feet.

And you had the choice to do that. You could very well have decided that, you know, those revisions that I had tasked you with were something you didn’t want to do.

A step too far. Yep.

It would be interesting—of course, there’s no way to know—but it would be interesting to know that, had you done that, which stage of the creative cycle would that have launched you back into?

Interesting, it’s an interesting thought.

Where it’s the one where you languish. Oh, it would have, it would have launched me back into that inner disquiet because I wouldn’t have been happy. I’d have just, I mean, just like the creative process, even when you’re doing the final revisions, it’s a new Spring, because you’re starting again with this new perspective of the edits and revisions you need to do.

Oh, I’m glad you said that, too, because that reminds me of something else I wanted to make sure that the listeners understand. So this 10 stages of creativity, you can apply this cycle to your creative life, in general; however, it can also apply to a specific project. So if you’re the kind of person, like KimBoo, who can work on 400 things at one time, you may be at a different stage of the cycle in different projects. Does that make sense?

As the person with 400 projects, yes, I can confirm, yes.

So KimBoo, any of these resonate with you?

Well, as you were just saying, I think I probably have a project and every single one of these points on this, on this cycle right now. Um, I was thinking, they all relate and I’ve been through all of these at some point, but I think right now, at this moment in time, the one I’m relating to the most is actually the starting point is the Carrying Inner Disquiet

I have a lot of stories that I’ve either started or wanted to start and have put aside for many years. And I am starting to feel the pull of working on the stories. And it’s, it’s the inner disquiet. But, and I don’t know how much this really applies to what you’re teaching, Gina. But there’s also fear. There’s fear for me of looking at these stories. Some need to be rewritten. They were written a long time ago, and I’ve gotten much better. Some of them just need to be finished. They’re not that bad, could use edits, but they just need like, this final third of the story written. It’s just, there’s this well of inner disquiet in me that is really calling me to work on these things, even though I’ve got other things to do. 

So it’s a difficulty when you’re carrying that inner disquiet. And, you know, we can romanticize it a lot, your inner disquiet and so you need to work on the thing and, and just let it out and put the words on the page. There’s, but there’s also a lot of fear there. And at least for me. May not be true with other people. They may feel the inner disquiet and run onto the battlefield with, you know, pens flaming or whatever the, you know, metaphor might be there. I went to pens flaming. Pens flaming? I don’t know where I came up with that. Little bit of…

Swords, maybe?

Maybe swords, flaming swords. Flaming pens. You see how I feel about this? So that’s where I am right now. I do think the three feet of gold was probably second on my list. Because why do I have a lot of stories that are unfinished, KimBoo? Well, let me tell you about the story of the minor. And I think those two are probably the ones that really struck me in the face at this point, where I am on my writing journey.

So I would suggest to you, and we’ll talk more about this in our next episode when we are going to dive more deeply into that first stage of Carrying Inner Disquiet, there are a number of things that will keep us stuck in that stage. Some of them are internal, and some are external. And of course, it’s usually only the internal ones that we can do anything about. But recognizing what those things are that are keeping you stuck in inner disquiet is the first step toward moving into that next stage of Releasing. And so I see you as being in between those two stages, looking from the outside in, because I think you’re, I think you know what it is. And so it’s just figuring out what to do about it.

Yeah, I think you’re right about that. Yeah.

I’m excited to talk more about this too, because I do know that the inner disquiet—I’ve come to learn this at this point in my life, both personally and creatively—is that that inner disquiet is not comfortable. And my first go-to is, “What is wrong? Am I doing something wrong? What do I have to fix so I don’t feel this way anymore?” But I’ve learned that that’s just a signal that something is ready to get pushed, you know, be born to get expressed.

I love that.

How about you, Gina? Which one of these is a really—I mean, I know we’re going to talk about it more in the next episodes—but come on, which, which, which phase ae you in, on this cycle? You don’t think you get out of this?

So I really think you know, KimBoo and I are sort of on parallel paths right now in exploring a new way of getting our writing into readers hands, which is subscriptions. And so we’re exploring this new platform that’s going to be launching in May called Ream. So I feel like right now, I’m at the Releasing stage. I have put my dreams of my own writing up under a rock for so long, the opportunity to participate in this new approach has reignited the fire underneath me about my writing. And so right now, I really am looking at what are the things that are holding me back that I need to release in order for me to move forward and, you know, take this path. So I feel like Releasing is sort of where I am right now.

Oh, interesting.

That’s an important part of any process is releasing. It’s also part of the getting ready to birth something new. Because sometimes you cannot bring that new thing in until you have released. And, again, don’t get too tied to things being linear, because those cycles can come around again and again. And we’re… one of the worksheets, we’re going, the outline we’re going to put on the website, there’ll be some notations about which seasons, these particular steps and the creativity cycle may correspond to. And I invite you to go back if you haven’t listened to those seasons, go back and listen to them on our podcast, all listed there. Because I will have some important information, if you feel you’re stuck. And what may be causing stuckness in that particular part of the cycle.

Yes, perfect.

Yeah, we’ve got a large resource at this point. We’ve been doing this over a year. So we’ve got a pretty substantial backlog of episodes that could really help people if you want to go back and check them out. They’re all linked on our website. So pretty easy to find.

Terrific. Well, as we said, we will be talking more in depth in our next episode about the first stage of Carrying Inn Disquiet. So I think that’s going to wrap us up for today.

Well, thank you all for joining us on this podcast. Again, we are really excited to be talking about the creativity cycle in our next podcast, tune in like I said. Again, we have all the previous ones listed and I invite you to go back and re-listen to some or brush up on the ones you haven’t heard. And please leave your comments or questions there. We’d love to hear from you. So thank you all for tuning in today. Yeah, thanks. 


See you next time.

Thanks for joining us around the writer’s table. Please feel free to suggest a topic or a guest by emailing info@aroundthewriterstable.com. Music provided with gracious permission by Langtry. A link to their music is on our homepage at AroundTheWritersTable.com. Everyone here around the writer’s table wishes you joy in your writing and everyday grace in your living. Take care, until next time.

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