Navigating the Orient stage

The four stages of creativity, breakthrough, innovation, and transformation are accompanied by some key practices which can help navigate the difficulties, opportunities, and quick sand inherent in each stage.
 The second stage, following wonder, is orient. This is where we do the work of finding our footing in a creative project.
 We have been inspired to follow a curiosity, line of thought, insight, or flight of imagination. This is not a passing interest, a moderate commitment. It is more like falling in love. We are taken in by this thing that captured us, and we wonder at it and about it. Now we want to know much more about it and are finding our way toward or into a focus that will lead to a defined project or pathway of investigation and creation.
 What are some core practices for navigating the orient stage? The actual practices will vary almost as much as do the possible types of creative project, but will serve a set of common purposes.
 1. Seek.
 Seeking is the in-taking aspect of exploration. This may involve field work, research, absorbed reading, interviews, tinkering or model-making.
 2. Manipulate.
 Manipulation is a more active and directed aspect of exploration. The purpose here is to learn more or develop a relationship by interacting with the object of your fascination.
 What happens when I do this? What is the range of possible applications or effects?
 Where exploring focuses first on gathering, seeking and noticing in a somewhat more passive sense, manipulation begins to create more actively through experimentation or interaction. This could be through dialogue, draft writing, sketching, literal experimentation, rough stages of building, continued model-making, though experiment, active visioning, or any other form of playing with the concept, object or phenomenon.
 3. Refine.
 With this practice you are integrating what you have discovered, through seeking and manipulating, about the object of your fascination. And you are coming to a clearer focus about the question, insight or vision that first grabbed you.
 Now you are refining your thinking and envisioning, getting a clearer big picture about what you are trying to create or discover, and working to find a way forward. What are you after? What is this really about? How in the world do you really get started with this thing?
 The actions of the practice of refinement may be the same as for exploring and manipulating, but you will enter more focused ways of approaching these activities. There will be more experimenting, seeking and interacting, but now it is more for the purpose of moving forward into a piece of creative work than about starting to get to know the conditions and boundaries, contexts and possibilities, of the object of your fascination.
 Together, these practices embody the principles of exploration and play. Also, they are not actually separate activities but actually overlapping and integrated as well as iterative.
 Consider how as a child you first became fascinated with something and then played with it to better understand how it work, what it meant, what it felt like to experience it, how you could relate to it. This is the work of the orient stage.

Problems in the creative experience

Getting started. Getting stuck. Getting done.
 These are the rough hallmarks of the creative process. I’ve noticed we tend to have our own favorite segments for shining or falling.
 Are you a great starter, but run out of something essential before the middle, or near the end?
 Do you have trouble getting started, but once you have steam can count on yourself to hang in there for at least a good while?
 Do you get close to the end, or all the way there, but can’t stop fixing or improving, or can’t bring yourself to put it out into the world?
 In the four stages of the creative experience, there are some common practices that may help navigate the difficulties of the stage you’re in now.
 Today we will focus on the first stage, wonder.
 In the wonder stage we are finding inspiration. If you are here, these three practices are essential:
 1. Make space.
 If our days are always too full, our energies always depleted, our physical spaces too overwhelming or uninspiring, our heads always too noisy, how will the light get in?
 2. Pay attention.
 Improvements in space making will help with paying attention, but it takes more than letting the light in to actually notice and attend to what is standing in the light–the wisp or trumpet sound of an idea, question, vision, desire, or insight.
 The tools of paying attention are so varied by individual and context, but tend to include stillness, documentation, and exploration: note taking, journaling, walking or walking around, breaking up routines, coaching, meditation, retreat, travel, sketching, tinkering, puttering, modeling, playing, discussing, photographing, class taking, teaching, reading, pinning, and even sleeping with or without dream journaling.
 3. Follow fascination.
 If there is enough space in your world to allow for moments of wonder, inspiration, insight, curiosity or imagination, and the way you live in some way supports paying attention to sources of inspiration as they appear, this is what remains in the wonder stage: follow fascination.
 You know what it is to be serendipitously delighted when web surfing. You go online to find a piece of data, or an idea for a birthday present, or to register for a conference. A word, an idea, a link lights up for you, and you go there. Three to five hops later you’ve stumbled on something truly fascinating, or wonderfully useful to the thing you’ve been sort of paying attention without really knowing where it was heading.
 Internet serendipity happens elsewhere, too. We notice and turn down a different street, go to a new place for lunch or a different section in the bookstore, pick up an odd magazine in the waiting room, or sign up for an interesting class.
 Often the first turn or two isn’t so significant. But if we keep following these little nudges or fragments of fascination, we often find serendipity–a place where our sense of wonder lands and takes hold. We want to stay here a while, play a bit, see where it takes us or what it means.
 Sometimes this means we are entering stage two, orient.
 In stage two we will need these three practices as much as ever. We can’t stop making space, paying attention and following fascination. The problems and objectives of stage two will require it’s own core set of practices, though. We will explore this further.

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