When you watch a creative TikTok or read a blog post that resonates deeply, you’ll often wonder how the creator does it. How do they continue to create content that excites or inspires?
It’s the “creative process,” which looks different for everyone. Some creators may constantly consume content, set aside time to generate ideas, or even learn 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 in 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 that makes them stand out in their respective fields.
How to figure out your creative process
There are five steps to help you develop your creative process: consumption, incubation, ideation, evaluationi creation. Here’s how to use them to find out yours:
Content creation doesn’t start with the big idea that comes to you in the shower. It starts with the things you consume: that trip when you were 10 years old that stayed with you in adulthood or the comic book you came across and never stopped reading. The first piece of advice you’ll be given as a creator is “do what you know,” followed closely by “show how you’re learning something new.” You cannot pour from an empty pot, and you cannot create if you have never consumed.
Practically, this boils down to: take note of everything. You are already consuming daily reading books, interacting with people and spending 4 hours on TikTok. Of all the experiences you have, from the mundane to the exciting, remember what engaged you and why.
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 went through all the people I followed within the niche on 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 leverage 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 thoughts or ideas that came up while you were wandering around in a notebook or word document, but without any form. At this point, you need to do something counterintuitive: instead of doubling down, let your ideas flow.
You can work on other more developed projects or take a break entirely with an activity that does not overlap with your other line of thinking. Whatever you choose to do, make it something that makes sure you don’t try 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 vision stage, where ideas begin to take shape. This is when structure and templates come into play as you begin to organize your thoughts. You can start fleshing out your ideas by adding details. You can also start researching to see what has been done, to see what makes yours stand out.
At this stage, you can begin to determine what is practical and what is not. You may weigh your idea against alternatives and realize that you can’t beat what’s already there, or realize that your idea isn’t as concrete as you originally imagined. You can also think about your ideas against where you are as a creator. Some things may be too far out of reach or simply not aligned with your audience – this is the stage where you find out. If you have nothing left after the assessment, that’s okay! Take the lessons you’ve learned about what works and what doesn’t, and apply them to your future brainstorming exercises. If you’ve come up with great ideas, even better, keep going.
This is where the fun (and hard work) begins. You have an idea that you’d like to turn into a full project, whether it’s filming a video of you making a sculpture for TikTok or creating an online educational course to share. Once you complete 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 episodes of her LinkedIn audio series – #CreatorTeaTalk – Jayde Powell had one thing in mind: to entertain and inform. He also had to think strategically about what would captivate the audience for the two-hour long live show.
The themes of the series are based on cultural conversations between creators, so Jayde doesn’t start planning episodes until a week before the event. The first episode covered payment rates and transparency because that’s always top of mind for creators, and this opening 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 created a strategic framework to support the generation of more content ideas .
Dre Fox and the Content Tree
Content creator and social media coach Dre Fox needs a constant flow of ideas for all of her content creation. She calls her ideation method the “content tree.” As she describes it, “You have a lot of different branches, and then those branches have other branches that come out.” This visualization helps the content creator and social media coach to create dynamic content. The tree method is a sibling of the content pillar or cube methods, but Dre mentions that it can become repetitive.
The creator takes a topic, divides it into six subtopics and these into smaller ideas. This exercise helps you turn four general topics into 100 ideas in 30 minutes. Then figure out how to visually communicate that value (because their primary social platform is Instagram).
So if it’s an information-driven idea, like a 5-step process, it’ll go with the Carousel. If it’s more personal, where you’re telling your story about how your business started, you’ll use a photo. And if it’s a more trendy or cheerful theme, he’ll use a Reel. Deciding what goes where is usually determined by a mix of gut instinct and technical knowledge.
Katie Xu defies convention with intentionally raw videos
TikTok creator Katie Xu’s method for generating ideas is part of the unconventional goodness of her content. He mentions working backwards in terms of strategy, starting with identifying your personal brand to determining what ideas would come out of it. She asked herself, “What do I want my brand to look like and what kind of content am I good at?” So, “What’s the best method for me to get there to publish and do well with this content?”
A lot of conventional thought processes can restrict the type of content you can create because it’s geared towards each platform’s algorithms, which is fine in Katie’s estimation, but it can take the creativity out of the creator. Katie shares tips for creators who go against common convention with a low-fidelity format because they want their 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 coming up with innovative ideas on the fly, while others get stuck regularly (like me!). We just hope to suggest ways to standardize your process and make content generation a little easier.
When you come 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 make a draft in the Ideas section, so you never lose your content in that notebook you only open once every two months.