Creative Process Exercises (Step 3)

Manifestation is the third step in the creative process. It generally takes a lot longer to complete than the other two steps. Depending on what you’re creating, you may never be finished with it. Once you set out on the path to create something new, you begin to alter your reality. You start to receive information in the form of feedback, successes, failures, unexpected opportunities, or unanticipated obstacles. Any or all of that information can lead to discoveries and innovations. The creative process is dynamic rather than static. So use what you get to adjust your goals or reaffirm them.


This is where you get down to the nitty-gritty and figure out exactly what it’s going to take to realize your dream or accomplish your goal and then take practical steps to get there. You’ll need a plan. And you’ll need commitment. But you’ll also need to be observant and flexible.

Brainstorming is a problem-solving technique or exercise. In order for it to be effective, you need to define the problem or the question first. How can I accomplish such-and such? It also helps to have a few friends brainstorm with you. Multiple heads are likely to come up with—and spark—more ideas than one head can all by itself. You’ll need a relaxed atmosphere and something to write on that everyone can see. That can be a whiteboard or several pieces of paper taped to a wall. Assign someone to write down the ideas or suggestions as they’re spoken aloud. At the end of the session, your friends can help you evaluate the results, or you can do that solo.

The latest research on brainstorming runs counter to the previous belief that the lack of criticism was key to the success of a brainstorming session. As it turns out, that critical voice is useful. This isn’t to say that inviting someone to your brainstorming session who enjoys shooting down everyone’s suggestions is a good idea. It just means that if someone knows something won’t work—and why—don’t disregard that information. Why waste your time?

Setting long-term goals is a linear thinking process. If you’re going to do some brainstorming, you should probably do it before you tackle goal-setting. At this point, you should have a reasonably good idea of what it will take to make your dream real. Of course, you can’t know everything yet—that’s where being observant and flexible comes in—but you have to start somewhere. So make a list of everything you can think of that you need to accomplish. Then number each item in the sequence in which it needs to be completed (be arbitrary if you have to) and assign completion dates for each one. Then move on to short-term goal setting.

Write each long-term goal at the top of a separate sheet of paper, and then list the short-term goals you’ll need to complete for each one. Leave some space after each short-term goal so you can identify the specific action steps you’ll need to take. When you’ve finished doing this for all of your long-term goals, your head may be spinning. Remember that you don’t need to tackle this project all at once. And after you do it, you can prioritize what needs to be done now and make a to-do list of the most pressing action steps. Unless you are under an imperative to build Rome in a day, your timeframe is up to you. So complete your steps one at a time. As you do, you’ll build momentum and move closer and closer to creating what you want in your life.

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Enneagram types 4, 5, and 9 are often so daunted by the effort to make their creative desires real that they give up before they’ve even begun. Although goal-setting—and breaking down the bigger steps into smaller ones—can be extremely helpful, types 4, 5, and 9 are not likely to find the process enjoyable. If you are someone who has trouble following through, enlist cheerleaders (friends or family as support) who can help you acknowledge your accomplishments. Also, make sure to reward yourself regularly along the way.

Here’s some feedback Elizabeth Libbey and I got after an Ennea-Journaling workshop:

I was the 9 that said that when I imagine a scenario in my mind about success with certain goals and what that would look like, feel like, etc., I feel as though I have really done it and then I sort of forget about the matter. It has been a consistent problem that I run into over and over. Your exercise with writing a list of six month goals has really helped. I am ahead of schedule with my goals and I am currently enjoying a very focused commitment. It feels good, but it feels real as well.

Previous posts on the creative process: Something from Nothing, Creative Process Exercises (Step 1), Creative Process Exercises (Step 2)

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