Divergence and Convergence: The Two Fundamental Stages of the Creative Process - Deepstash
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Divergence and convergence

Divergence and convergence describe the two fundamental stages of the creative process.

  • Divergence refers to opening up your senses and taking in information from the outside world. For example, the start of a new project.
  • Convergence refers to shutting off sources of distraction and narrowing your focus to arrive at an end result. It's about drawing conclusions.

Together, these two stages form the backbone of creative work. Using a simple framework can help to purposefully design your environment to support each state of mind.

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Know your modes

Divergence and convergence are fundamental to the creative process.

  • Writers diverge by collecting raw material and sketching out potential characters and researching historical facts. They converge by making outlines, laying out plot points, and writing the first draft.
  • Engineers diverge by researching possible solutions and testing the boundaries of the problem. They converge by deciding on a particular approach, designing the implementation details, and starting to build.

You can use this simple framework to tell you which state of mind you should be in at a particular point of a project.

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Ways to purposefully diverge

  • Stroll through a library or bookstore to see what books draw your attention
  • Browse online communities for unusual ideas
  • Watch movies or documentaries on provocative topics
  • Subscribe to email newsletters, YouTube channels, or podcasts outside your usual listening habits
  • Peruse your notes on various topics even if they don’t seem directly related
  • Grab a drink or coffee with a friend from another field who might have a different way of looking at a problem you’re facing
  • Walk around a new neighbourhood or city and absorb the sights and sounds

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Ways you can purposefully converge

  • Decide on a particular deliverable you will produce by a specific time, then discard any information that’s not strictly necessary
  • Set a deadline and promise to deliver a draft to someone who will hold you accountable
  • Make an outline with the step-by-step sequence of points you want to cover
  • Chunk related tasks within your project into clear groups
  • Prioritise your tasks from most to least important
  • Give yourself defined periods to make progress
  • Stop researching and focus on summarising your current notes.

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End with the beginning in mind

No creative work is ever truly finished.

A final product or deliverable doesn't mean it is the end. It's just one iteration. The final product of one round of convergence can be used to gather outside feedback as a starting point for the next round of divergence.

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