You know those points in the creative process—and there are points, plural—when you realize you pretty much suck, that you haven’t an original idea in your head, that you’re a complete hack? Here are two bits of good news:
1) You’re not alone; everyone hits those points
2) Those crisis points are actually the most valuable steps in any creative process, because they force originality.
If you attended Sally Hogshead‘s closing keynote at HOW Design Live, you’ll recognize this idea as Sally’s “Throne of Agony” concept. As we move through the 5 phases of the creative process that Sally outlined—during which the ideas start out flowing freely (often the least original ideas)—we hit a stage when things become impossibly stuck. Sally calls that the Agony phase:
The most grueling step in the creative process, this is a red-blooded struggle. It’s hard. You feel like a hack. You want to quit.
Sally has shared the slides from her HOW Design Live keynote presentation, in which she outlines how to get through the Agony phase—but not avoid it. It’s the old phrase, “The only way out is through.”
Click on the image to view Sally’s presentation on Slideshare. You can also view her video on Design TV: The Creative Process: The 7 Triggers of Fascination.
Sally tells us that she hit a bit of agony during the preparation for her HOW keynote:
Part of the creative process is fun, but part can be absurdly torturous. I call that “the Agony.” Right before my closing keynote speech, I was stuck in the Agony stage myself: I’d figured out the concept of “The Throne of Agony,” but felt like I wasn’t explaining it clearly yet. But the more I talked to people at the conference, the more I realized that the Agony is actually one stage in a process. I went back to my hotel room, a jotted this graph on the pad of paper beside my bed (below), and emailed the photo to my designer to create the slides. And boom—just like that, the Agony was complete.
Here is the graph I sketched right before my speech. You can see the final version on page 4 of the SlideShare: