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Orna Ross
Orna Ross

Orna Ross is a novelist who blogs and speaks about Creative Intelligence.

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The Seven Stages of The Creative Process (Writing a Book) Part One

Orna Ross

Stage One: Creative Intention


The Challenge: To set the best possible creative intention for you and your writing at this time.


Creative intentions are not reducible to the ‘goals’ beloved of business management and success gurus. It is certainly possible to write a book using this sort of motivation, but this tends to prove more successful for factual nonfiction than creative work. For many writers in any genre, such an approach quickly leads to frustration, procrastination and, in extreme cases, writer’s block. It’s too managerial, too rational, too conscious. What’s missing is a tap into the vast reservoir of the imagination.


In setting creative intention, it is useful to think about the mind and our experience of the world in three dimensions:  Top Mind, Deep Mind and Beyond Mind.


Top Mind

Deep Mind

Beyond Mind





















Dark Matter










Our intentions are truer, higher, more satisfying, more likely to be fulfilled and more useful to others when we draw on our Deep Mind and Beyond in framing them and following them through.


The imagination is the only human faculty capable of accommodating all three dimensions of self.


Given that our imaginative capacities and creative intelligence are actively restrained by schools, workplace and society, all of which favour Top Mind and analytical, rational modes of understanding, there is a need to knowingly reconnect with this faculty that is suppressed in us.


The good news is that our creative intelligence is always there, available to us, though we are not always available to it.  It is an underground reservoir overlaid with rock and debris; if we dig through these (see ABCDEs below) we will open a space through which it can gush up to the surface, surprising and delighting us with what it brings forth.

Setting good creative intentions, therefore, requires us to go deep. We must bring the imagination, not just to the content of whatever it is we’re (co)creating but also to its conception and construction.


Not just to the what, but also to the how – everything from the form it will take to the eating, sleeping, working, playing and recharging we will do as we create it.


Try This: Inspiration Meditation. Meditation has now been scientifically proven, over and again, to nurture creative capacities. Inspiration Meditation is a simple form of meditation, especially designed for multi-tasking, western writers and artists whose minds are busy and fragmented. You can learn how to do it with this free ebook.


Try This: Do Nothing.  For 20 whole minutes, do nothing wholly and completely. Put on a piece of music that you find both soothing and expansive and lie down on your back, on the floor, to listen to it.  Close your eyes, put one hand to your heart and follow your thoughts wherever they go, observing them, but not allowing yourself to get caught up in the content.  Keep the listener (to the music) and the observer (of the thoughts) alive throughout.



We all bring

  • Attitudes
  • Beliefs
  • Concepts
  • Denials
  • Expectations

to any creative project.


These are not set; they will change as your intention begins to unfold.  The very act of turning attention on them often loosens long held ideas and framings. And that is good. The more open we are at this early stage, the better.


A.  What is my attitude to writing a book?

B.   What core beliefs do I hold about the project, about myself, and about my ability to see it through? How true are these, in reality?

C. How do I conceptualise this project, in my mind? What does it mean to me? What abstract notions do I hold about it?

D. What might I be denying? What might be there that I don’t know I don’t know?

E. What outcome am I expecting? What can I accept? What would be awful? What might be good in the worst outcome, bad in the best?


Try This: F-R-E-E-Write three paragraphs addressing each of these questions.


Try This: Write out as long a list as you can make of all your fears about this project (at least 10, preferably more): People will laugh; my mother will be hurt; I’m not good enough; it’s been done before; I can’t afford it; who’d want to hear what I have to say?; I have nothing to say; I won’t be able to make it as perfect as it is in my head; I’m being self-indulgent...

When you’ve finished your list, write five more.


Try This: Go without telephone, newspapers, books, TV or Internet for two days. Move in close to yourself.


Creative Paradox

To begin a creative project, especially one of any magnitude, is to enter the world of paradox. In order to be habitually creative you have to know how to set intentions, not just for the book as a whole but for each chapter, and scene and line and word (depending on how literary/finicky you are), as well as for the life that will support the work and enable it to be brought into being.


And then you have to be equally capable of letting the intention go when the time is right.


To know and to do what works.


The intention is like scaffolding for a new build. While laying the outer bricks, it’s essential, but once the shell of the building is in place, and work has started on the interior, it can go without any consequences for the structure.

          So your initial intention has to be solid enough to get the work standing on its own. Then you can let the nuts and bolts, the shape and texture, the layout and furnishings be what they want to be.


It’s very rare for a book to turn out exactly as it was conceived in the beginning.


Try This: Pick three of your favourite books and try to work out what the author’s intention was in writing them. How does this relate to/compare or contrast with your own creative intentions.


Try This: Draft a handwritten parallel monologue around your creative intentions for this project, using both your dominant and non-dominant hand.

Begin with your dominant hand, thus: ‘When I think about this project, I…” and repeat with your non-dominant hand, starting in the same way.


I’d really like for it to.

I’m afraid it might…

What will I do if it doesn’t…

Here’s how I’m going to make it happen...


Next Month: Incubation.



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