Learn How to Jam

The Poetry of Progress: Embrace Your Creative Process


No. 130 | By Christine Carron

I was knocked sideways last week in the most delightful way. It was one of those moments that grabs hold of you and makes you realize, “Wow, my life is cool.” I’m going to tell you what happened, but I need you to prepare yourself. I mean, this is going to blow your mind, for sure. Here we go: I got to help a poet break down her work.

Now, if you’re thinking, this Christine is one quirky cookie, I can’t exactly disagree with you, but I can provide more back story. I spent most of my career helping highly creative business folk with productivity and process improvement, i.e., helping them get better at getting their work done. The subject matter of their expertise were things like software development, quality assurance, biotech research, banking, finance, insurance, product marketing, and the like. Totally cool stuff that absolutely makes the world go round but, you know, business’y.

The Power of Process Ease

From the get-go with Goodjelly, getting to take all my process chops and help writers has been seriously awesome. But this past week was the first time I got to engage with a real live poet using these tools. There I was, just like normal, asking questions to discover more about her process: How long are the stanzas in this project? Do you draft and revise together or separately? When you do revise, do you revise the poem as a whole unit or stanza by stanza? It was in the midst of asking those questions and helping her design her writing work for more ease and flow that I got all gobsmacked with delight. 

I mean mashing up process thinking and poetry?!?! Yes, please! I love my life! Wahoos for all! 

My delight was, as always, expanded by her wins: measurable progress, renewed confidence about getting that project done, and most importantly, more agency over her creative process. That’s when productivity really lets loose. When a writer has not only the craft skills but also the process know-how, the mindset chops, and the inner oomph to create in a way that aligns with how they like to create.

Smart process doesn’t choke your creativity or productivity. It unleashes it. And does so in a way that enlivens and motivates you.

In celebration of all this process for poetry joy, here are 5 tips to help you embrace YOUR creative process with more confidence and ease.

Tip #1 | Claim Strategic Slowdowns

This is going to be obvious when I state it, but this point is key to process improvement. When I was asking this poet about her process, she was not hammering away at her poetry. She had to stop writing, to think about how she was writing. If you want to improve your creative process—or perhaps even figure out what your creative process is in the first place—you will have to gift yourself with time and space to do so.

Tip #2 | Get Curious not Critical

I’ve always been curious, even fascinated, by what makes people (me, included) tick. How they work—or don’t. A mindset of curiosity is how I invite you to explore what makes you and your creative process not just work, but hum. If your Inner Critic starts piping up, give it a big hug and let that part of you know that you’ve got this process exploration covered

Then, from that place of kind curiosity, ask yourself questions like: 

  • what helps me get my writing done?
  • what currently frustrates me about my creative process?
  • what parts of my creative process currently aren’t working well?
  • what parts of the writing adventure do I not like?
  • what parts of the writing adventure do I like?
  • what writing work am I avoiding doing and why?
  • how could I make getting that work done easier?

The answers that come will help you identify and appreciate your creative preferences. Then you can design a creative process that will make it easier for you to make progress, because it is taking YOU into account. 

Tip #3 | Enjoy the Process Clarity as it Unfolds

As you start paying more attention to your creative process, you will immediately see places that need tweaking. In addition, the solution will be clear and easily implemented. In other parts of your process, clarity about the problem or the solution will be elusive. Some process improvements will take longer to identify and/or resolve. That is perfectly normal. Enjoy the clarity as it unfolds. Trust that you are getting insight into and making changes exactly where it is most needed at any given time. 

For example, for the poet, together we were able to identify a clear process change she could experiment with immediately in relation to drafting the poem. The revision process was a little murkier. With that part of the process, she is going to observe how she revises, and then once we have that additional data, we’ll play around with how to best design that work so she can create easier flow and progress. 

Tip #4 | Play (Lightly) with Other Writers’ Processes 

One of my favorite things to do is listen to other writers talk about their creative process. However, at the beginning of my writing adventure, if I heard a published writer talk about a specific technique, especially if they were a writer I admired, I would dutifully go home and tell myself that was how I had to write forevermore if I wanted to be successful. 

Some of those techniques were helpful to me. Others were completely mismatched to my creative blueprint. Unnecessary suffering, struggle, and inner critic attacks ensued until I just conveniently “forgot” the new technique and moved on. Eventually, I gave myself permission to try other writers’ approaches without making myself wrong if they didn’t help me create flow. (What a relief!)

In Goodjelly speak, being in flow and getting your writing work done is called jamming, and I want every writer to have a huge toolkit filled with strategies, tools, and tactics to help them jam. So absolutely, tune into the techniques other writers use to get their writing work done. You never know when a process gem will land in your lap. Try it out. Play with it. If it works for you great. If not, drop that process faster than you can say, buh-bye!

Tip #5 | Expect Your Creative Process to Evolve 

Sometimes, in the excitement of finally getting more clarity and embracing strategies and techniques that truly align with how they like to work, writers begin to think that their creative process is fixed. That their creative preferences will never change. That is not at all the case. As you grow as a writer—as you grow as a writer in charge of your creative process—that process will invariably grow and change, too. That is part of the magic and fun of being on the writing adventure in the first place. 

Delight in Your Creative Process

These five tips—claiming strategic slowdowns; getting curious instead of critical; enjoying the process clarity as it unfolds; playing (lightly) with other writers’ processes; and expecting your creative process to evolve—will help you create a new relationship with and confidence in yourself on the creative journey. 

Bottomline: You don’t have to write OR get your writing done like anyone else. Embracing YOUR creative process will not only make your writing adventure easier, it will make it so much more satisfying, i.e., delightful. 

Wahoo! You’ve got this!