When you watch a creative TikTok or read a blog post that resonates deeply, you may often wonder how the creator does it. How do they keep coming up with content that excites or inspires?
It’s the “creative process”, which looks different for everyone. Some creators might be consuming content constantly, setting aside time to come up with ideas, or even just learning what works through trial and error over time. Regardless of the method, everyone has one. The creative process is an essential aspect of any artist’s journey. It involves ideation, experimentation, and implementation of ideas that eventually manifest into creative works.
In this article, we explore the creative process of three creators: Jayde Powell, Dre Fox, and Katie Xu. Each of these creators has a unique style and approach to their craft, making them stand out in their respective fields.
How to figure out your creative process
There are five steps to help you build out your creative process: consumption, incubation, ideation, evaluation, and creation. Here’s how to use them to figure out yours:
Content creation doesn’t start from the great idea that comes to you in the shower. It starts from the things you consume: that one trip when you were 10 that has stayed with you into adulthood or the comic book you came across and never stopped reading. The earliest advice you’ll be given as a creator is to “do what you know,” closely followed by “show how you’re learning something new.” You can’t pour from an empty pot, and you can’t create if you’ve never consumed.
Practically, this boils down to: take note of everything. You’re already consuming daily by reading books, interacting with people, and spending 4 hours on TikTok. Out of every experience you have, from the mundane to the exciting, remember what engaged you and why it did.
Let’s say you want to direct your consumption to more specific sources. From personal experience, building expertise in all things social media and content creation didn’t happen because I took a class in a controlled environment. It happened through all the people I followed within the niche across all my social media, reading blogs and newsletters, and watching every video/listening to every podcast I could find. In many ways, I use the tools at my disposal and take advantage of The Algorithm to keep serving me similar content, so I never run out of inspiration.
The incubation stage is where you let your thoughts run free. This is where you have a bunch of shower thoughts or ideas that came while you were on a walk down in a notebook or Word doc, but with no form to them. At this point, you must do something counterintuitive – instead of doubling down, let your ideas go.
You can work on other, more developed projects or take a break entirely with an activity that doesn’t overlap with your other train of thought. Whatever you choose to do, let it be something that ensures you’re not trying to work on your new idea. By allowing your ideas to breathe on their own, you can let them fully form and come to life without restriction.
After incubation comes the insight stage, where ideas begin to take shape. This is the time when structure and templates come into play as you start to organize your thoughts. You may start to flesh out your ideas by adding detail to them. You may also start to research to see what has been done, to see what makes yours stand out.
At this stage, you can begin to determine what is and isn’t practical. You may weigh your idea against alternatives and realize you can’t beat what’s already there or realize your idea isn’t as concrete as you had initially imagined. You can also think about your ideas against where you are as a creator. Some things may be too out of scope or just not aligned with your audience – this is the stage where you figure this out. If, after evaluation, you’re left with nothing, that’s okay! Take the lessons you’ve learned about what is good and what isn’t, and apply them to your future ideation exercises. If you’ve landed on some great ideas, even better – forge ahead.
This is where the fun (and hard work) begins. You have that one idea that you’d love to turn into a full project, whether that’s filming a video of you making a sculpture for TikTok or creating an educational online course to share. Once you finalize this stage, you can share your content with the world.
3 creators on their creative process
Three creators – Jayde Powell, Dre Fox, and Katie Xu – shared with us how they create content, from idea generation to execution.
Jayde Powell combines strategy with creativity
When planning out episodes of her LinkedIn Audio series – #CreatorTeaTalk – Jayde Powell had one thing in mind: to entertain and provide insight. She also had to think strategically about what would captivate an audience for the two-hour-long live show.
The series’ topics are based on cultural conversations among creators, so Jayde doesn’t start planning episodes until a week before the event. The first episode covered pay rates and transparency because that’s always top of mind for creators, and that initial episode set the tone for the rest of the series.
The idea for the series was already in the Insight stage and went from Evaluation to Creation easily because Jayde came up with a creative idea and then built a strategic framework to support the generation of more content ideas.
Dre Fox and the Content Tree
Dre Fox, a content creator and social media coach, needs a consistent flow of ideas for all her content creation. She calls her ideation method a “content tree”. As she describes it, “You have a lot of different branches, and then those branches have other branches coming out.” This visualization helps the content creator and social media coach create dynamic content. The tree method is a sister of the content pillar or bucket methods, but Dre mentions that can get repetitive.
The creator takes one topic, breaks it down into six sub-topics, and those into smaller ideas. This exercise helps her turn four general topics into 100 ideas within 30 minutes. Next comes figuring out how to visually communicate that value (because her main social platform is Instagram).
So if it’s an info-driven idea, like a 5-step process, she’ll go with the Carousel. If it’s more personal, where she’s telling her story about how she started her business, she’ll use a photo. And if it’s a more trendy or light-hearted topic, she’ll use a Reel. Deciding what goes where is usually determined by a mix of gut instinct and technical knowledge.
Katie Xu bucks convention with intentionally raw videos
TikTok creator Katie Xu’s method of coming up with ideas is part of the unconventional goodness of her content. She mentions working backward in terms of strategy, starting from identifying her personal brand to determining what ideas would come from it. She asked herself: “What do I want my brand to look like and what kind of content am I good at making?” Then, “What is the best method for me to get there to be putting out and doing well with that content?”
A lot of the conventional thought processes can restrict the kind of content you can make because it’s geared towards the algorithms of each platform, which is fine in Katie’s estimation but can take the creativity out of the creator. Katie shares advice for creators that goes against common convention using a lo-fi format because she wants her content to speak for itself.
Despite the formats and formulas we’ve shared, the creative process is unique to everyone. Some people have no problem developing innovative ideas on the fly, while others regularly get blocked (like me!) We merely hope to suggest ways to standardize your process and make it a bit easier to generate content.
When you’re coming up with ideas, writing them down somewhere you won’t forget is vital. Buffer Ideas can help – just open Buffer on web or mobile and draft in the Ideas section, so you never lose your content to that one notebook you only open once every other month.