Creative Expansion: Five Ways to Develop Your Creative Process

For a long time, I did not consider myself to be a creative person. I thought of myself as a creativity groupie of sorts -- consuming books, music, movies, and art in other shapes and forms. I would tell myself that I couldn’t call myself creative. I have yet to learn how to play any musical instruments, I have only done writing for school, and the last time I tried to draw or paint was probably 1997 or 1998. There are still times where I feel creatively lacking.


I have come to the realization that as a psychologist in private practice, I want the structure of my business to be built on my terms, and I want  to run it creatively. I could choose to work full-time at a treatment center, but I want to find my own way of figuring this out. And have it reflect who I am as a person, where I am most inspired, rather than a cookie cutter, preformatted practice without any deeper meaning, running off cliched marketing ploys.


My creative process journey began last year when I started doing Morning Pages. For me to even consider that I would be someone to open up the Artist’s Way and actually read it was the first shift. It helped that my husband had a copy of it lying around and I occasionally eyed it on the bookshelf.


For those of you not familiar with Morning Pages -- here’s a quick explanation.


But who am I to say I am creative? Writing for my business is not creative, is it? Can I even write anything worth reading? I regularly hear these thoughts running through my mind as I try to expand on my creative process.


Now I can recognize that voice as my inner critic. And it has been coming back again in a big way, which makes sense. Finding my voice as a creative person has been one of the hardest things I have done since I began working with clients in therapy more than 10 years ago.


Here are some things I have learned about my creative process:


Commit to going deeper. To actually be present with yourself, to figure out what you want to express and do it often, and do it well, is a TON of work. I started blogging a few years ago for my private practice and stopped after a few months. But now, after I have recharged and began writing again, I have realized that I need to be consistent and dedicate my time to the process. But it’s not just about consistency, even though I have been committed to blogging and writing social media posts, I am trying to actually go deeper and really express myself. Not just scratching the surface. You never know where you can go creatively unless you really dive in.


Think about things from every angle. Mostly, my creative expression has been with words, but the aesthetics of my website, the photos that I choose to post on Instagram, everything in my office, all of that is an expression of me as a person, not just a therapist. Everything that I do is a way for clients to get to know me, to see all parts of my evolving creativity that reflect aspects of my personality and values. Spend some time thinking about all of the aspects that make up your creative process. Does everything reflect who you are?


Leave your comfort zone. I don’t like to be the center of attention professionally, but if I’m not out there for people to see or hear from, people who do not know about me and don’t hear from me frequently, they are not going to think about me or ever find me. Putting yourself out there means that you are being vulnerable in some way. You are letting people know who you are and that you have needs. Even writing this post feels pretty uncomfortable for me because I am sharing a lot about myself instead of just focusing on a topic.


Ask for help, you will need it. I can put a lot of pressure on myself to figure things out on my own. And I am pretty good at it. But that’s not the point; there’s always more to learn. Acting like I don’t need help, and trying to retain control, or fear of admitting that I can’t do it alone  has blocked me several times from moving forward in my career. No matter how talented you are, you can’t do everything on your own all of the time. No matter what creative path your heart is following, you need a community of people who can be there for you. Asking for help is a sign of strength-- creatively, professionally and personally. You can let someone help you without losing control.


Put you <and your dreams> first. I find myself more comfortable being behind-the-scenes, helping and supporting others. It took me a long time to realize that the more I was trying to help make other people’s dreams come true that I was actually procrastinating doing the hard work of focusing on my own dreams. Sometimes you can get distracted by making other people’s dreams come true, or you can also get distracted by other people’s problems. Make sure each week that you are focusing enough energy on yourself to keep your creative work evolving and your career moving forward.

My creative process, your creative process, is exactly that -- a process. While I feel like I have made leaps and bounds of progress over the past year, I can also see how much more I have to learn about myself and how I want to continue to be more creative and express myself.

Vanessa Spooner, Psy.D.