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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Word Counts Work – In 1 Out of 6 Stages Part 2

What to do next? Depends on which stage you're in.

In my previous post, I explained that setting a goal for writing so many words a day can only work in one out of the six stages of the creative process and provided a brief review of the first three stages. You’ll find that one-out-of-six stage in the remaining three stages.

Stage 4: Illumination

This flash of insight that follows Incubation is everyone’s favorite stage. In this “A-ha” or “Eureka” moment, everything fits together.

Because this is typically a brief stage, you’ll probably won’t have time to do more than jot a few notes or draw a quick cluster or mind-map. You’re still not doing the kind of drafting that makes word-counts a practical tool yet.

Stage 5: Verification

Finally, you’ve arrived in the stage where you’re drafting and generating new material. Now you can effectively use word counts.

This is the stage where you make something tangible out of the insight you received in Illumination, something that can be shared with others. You’ll draft, revise, rewrite, edit, proofread, ask for feedback, read out loud, etc. Just don’t try to draft and revise at the same time. Letting your early drafts be imperfect approximations of what you’re trying to write is really the most effective approach.

Repeat Stages 1 – 5

Drafting and revising in Verification often raise new questions and lead you back to First Insight. You might go through the first five stages just once for a short piece; you’re more likely to repeat the first five stages many times to complete a large writing project.

Sometimes after completing a writing project, you move into a kind of limbo where you’re not sure what to work on next and don’t have enough creative energy to move into First Insight. This is the Hibernation stage.

Stage 6: Hibernation

During this the fallow time, your primary task is to recharge your batteries and restore your creative energy. Like Incubation, this stage is often mistaken for writer’s block, but is a natural part of the creative process that needs to be respected. Like Saturation, this is a stage about input, not output.

You need to do whatever renews your creative spirit. Look at beautiful images or art. Listen to beautiful music. Be in beautiful natural spaces. Garden, walk, sit by a lake, rest, wait. Give yourself time to just be; it’s the only way you can fill yourself up and have something to share again.

As your creative energy returns, you’ll start wondering “what if, why not, how about…” and other open-ended questions that will funnel you back to First Insight.

In the Writing Habit class (Mondays 5-7 pm Sept 12 thru Oct 17 or Thursdays 1-3 pm Oct 27 thru Dec 8), we talk about why we tend to get stuck in certain stages and how to keep moving. Again, I don’t have space to give you all those details here, but you have enough information to recognize which stage of the creative process you’re in so you can do the appropriate writing task.

What stage are you in now? Are you doing the tasks that fit that stage?

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6 Comments on “Word Counts Work – In 1 Out of 6 Stages Part 2”

  1. Jesus November 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

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  2. Rosanne Bane August 26, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Glad to hear it! Do you think reading about the creative process was more useful than our discussion in the Writing Habit class or was it better to just get the information twice (regardless of delivery method)?


  3. mkelberer August 26, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    Even better the second time around!



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