What is your relationship with the creative process?

This is probably a question you have never asked yourself, but my guess is that it's one that has haunted you for some time. Whenever you feel doubt around your work, or worry or concern or confusion, the realities of the creative process are right there in your emotions.

The truth is that we don't spend very much time in our culture talking about creativity. Once we leave kindergarten, it is often frowned upon to spend time making things up, either with our hands or our minds. You may have even experienced  the phenomenon of having people close to you wonder why you spend so much time alone in a room writing your story.

But whether we talk about it or not, we are creative creatures, born to create. We have the unique capacity to imagine and to create. If you are going to write your memoir – really do it this time – you need to understand your relationship to the creative process.

I have developed a list of 13 steps that every writer must go through to write a book and get it into the hands of readers. I call it the Universal Constants of Creativity. The steps don’t necessarily happen in this order for every writer; and some steps represent only a moment in time, while others can represent years of grueling work. But each step happens and each step is critical.

Here’s how to use the list:

  •  Read through it carefully and think hard about the truth of each step in your process. Be honest. The whole point here is to get down to something real.
  •  In your workbook, circle the steps you know you tend to get stuck on. Pay particular attention to the steps you may not have reached yet but that cause a certain amount of terror even when you just think about them. Circle these too.
  • Write a few paragraphs about each step that you circled and what it means to you. What do you feel? Why do you feel it?
  • Come up with at least two concrete ways to help you get past the roadblocks you have identified.


  1. The Initial Spark – the moment an idea comes into your mind. You're so excited and you love your idea. It feels so real you can practically taste it.
  2. Granting Yourself Permission – the moment you decide that you are  going to bring the idea to fruition. You're not just going to talk about it – you're going to create it.
  3. A Sense of Faith – a belief that what you are going to create has some  kind of meaning to you, and a hope that it might have meaning to other people as well. This faith motivates you.
  4. A Clear Intention – you consider your audience, set an objective. Your idea is no longer fuzzy – it has shape and structure and a clear purpose.
  5. Gathering Resources – collecting the thoughts, ingredients, materials, and tools you need to get the job done. For writers, this can include the quiet needed to write, or the space and time needed to write.
  6. Commitment  – you put a stake in the ground and make a start. You are no longer dreaming, you are now doing.
  7. Persistence – you keep going, despite setbacks and despite doubt. If you are rejected, you push past the pain to continue bringing your idea to life.
  8. Communion – you connect with other artists who speak your language and support your efforts. You form relationships that allow you to see yourself as a creator in your own eyes and in the eyes of other creators.
  9. Immersion – the exhilaration of engagement. You are in the zone. You feel like you can do no wrong. You feel alive and on fire.
  10. Perspective – you stand back to assess and analyze what you have created. You look at it with a critical eye to determine what is working and what may need more work. This step may include some judgment on your part. Is it any good? Will people care?
  11. Revision – you shape and refine. For writers, this is editing, revising, and rewriting.
  12. Letting Go – you decide to finish. You put a stop to the creative work. There is no more tinkering and refining. It is what it is. It is done.
  13. Public Offering – you share your creation with the world. You put it out there for other people to connect with, to consume, to ignore, to judge.