Creative output is based on inspired thought, and you can’t force inspired thought (at least for me). It’s one of the things I’ve learned while working in a creative industry, which focuses a lot on concepts and ideas and whether they would be fun or not. Since entering game development in 2006, I’ve learned to cope with the deadlines and milestones of projects that come my way, which are sometimes a bit unrealistic. But out of the frustrations of scheduling blunders and development hurdles, a realization emerged about my own creative workflow. It’s something I’ve been doing for the past 5 years in game development, whether consciously or subconsciously, that somehow worked for me, so far.
Every professional follows a certain workflow, whether adopted from the company’s own strict rules, a book or article they read about productivity, or something they came up with in time based on their own experiences. I personally came up, or rather discovered, a pattern of how I worked all these years. It involves a 2-week cycle and a lot of dead brain cells, I call it my biweekly workflow.
My biweekly workflow starts on a Monday (conveniently) of any given week. It usually starts with what I call a eureka moment. Eureka moments, in my own definition, are moments of creative epiphany that a light bulb pops up above my head, shines brightly, and then I get high, short of being a hamster on meth. Okay maybe that was a bit exaggerated, but nonetheless, eureka moments are my “Excalibur” so to speak. But there’s a problem with my eureka moments that I don’t seem to have control of. Sometimes they involve ideas that are not even related to what I’m currently working on, which kind of sucks, but is probably good in the long run; At least I have another idea to shelf for later use.
The rest of the first week involves polishing the ideas that came out from a eureka moment, and by the end of the week, I would have already killed millions of brain cells in the process. During the course of the first week, my creative juices go down steadily from the first day up to the fifth day. At the same time, my productivity plummets as I desperately try to make sense of what I’m doing. By Friday, you would normally see me walking around more often, with my head staring at the floor while thinking about ways to improve my ideas, to no avail. Alternatively you may see me banging my head on my desk. Over the weekends, I would’ve given up already on the task and have considered moving on.
The second week is more clerical work than anything else. It involves heavy documentation of all my work the previous week. This doesn’t involve a lot of killing brain cells so my productivity level goes back to normal. My creativity on the other hand suffers, and I hardly give it an effort to think about ideas. I just let things “flow” from there, letting time figure things out for me instead of using my brain which should be running on a 386 CPU by then. During the weekends, I let myself get immersed in different forms of media, to get any sort of inspiration out of them. I try to watch TV shows, movies, play games, go outside and absorb my environment (sounds monk-ish, but it works), until I get something out of them – an inspired thought. And then the cycle begins again the next Monday.