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Understanding the Creative Process

Written by Noa Garmaise:

So you’re looking to learn about the creative process? Well you’ve come to the wrong place. My name is Noa, and I’m a five-foot-one sixteen-year old with relatively few valuable notes to share. But fear not! If the creative process is a child, then I’m its teen mother.

To be honest, it usually takes some convincing to get people to heed my advice. “You don’t know what you’re talking about”, they say. “You’re being annoying”, they scorn. In some ways these haters are correct, because the creative process is not something that I know. No, it’s definitely something that I feel.

While I was working on my book, Modern Table Etiquette, the Second Edition, I was compelled to share my genius with the rest of the world. I hope you will consider my insights, but I can’t force you to listen. I’ve tried that, and it totally ruined seeing ​Frozen in theatres.

I believe we are now ready to debunk the mystery that is the creative process.

Brainstorming is the most critical part of the creative process. Whenever I share unsolicited advice about generating ideas, three key points tend to repeat themselves.

1. Write out lists for yourself.

Creative lists (such as this one) can be a great way to generate ideas and organize your thoughts. If you’re looking for some potential list prompts, feel free to borrow from my Greatest Hits:

•My Favourite Family Members, Ranked•

•Top 30 Things I Respect About Rudy Giuliani, but Don’t Publicly Approve of•

•Things I Never Knew About Chicago’s Rich Architectural History•

•10 Times It’s Appropriate to Use a Scottish Accent•

•Most Compatible Zodiac Signs (Excluding Scorpio for Obvious Reasons)•

•Worst Things Said by Larry David on Television•

•10 Times It’s Inappropriate to Use a Scottish Accent•

•Cyber Security and Some of My Other Deep Passions•

•Ways to Be Less Scared of Strangers and the Parents of My Friends•

2. Always jot down your ideas when you get them.

Inspiration can strike at any time. It is of paramount importance that you write down your ideas when they occur. In fact, there was a key point to understanding the creative process that is completely missing from this guide because I forgot to write it down.

3. Don’t be embarrassed of your initial work.

It isn’t worth it to be nervous that your project makes no sense when it’s still in the early stages. You’re the only one reading it so far. So be it if your work is riddled with spelling mistakes and run-on sentences! That’s why they invented the comma. In my bountiful personal experience, the more you work on something, the better it gets. When I began working on my collection of alternative Molly Ringwald movies, I was really hitting a wall. I already had the groundwork for Sixteen Sandals, a rom-com about Crocs, which was a solid 7/10. It wasn’t until I came up with The Breakfast Sub​, (9.5/10), that I felt completely confident in my work. Don’t worry, it takes time. Your big idea is on the way too.

It’s important to note that creative work should always come from a real place. Nonetheless, not everything included in one’s project needs to be completely true.

When I shared the pilot of my television series - ​Congested Development, a parody of Arrested Development based entirely off of my family - with my loved ones, I saw hearts break before my eyes. My sister, a total Lindsay, did not like the way she came across. In a heated moment she told me she didn’t even understand the title. Apparently nobody would get that it’s called Congested Development, because as a Jewish family we get a lot of colds. All of this happened before I had the chance to share my spinoff of ​It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in which my sister obviously fulfills the role of Dee. You know the type. Anyways, I always change certain details in my writing.

Allow me to supply you with an example of written work that comes from a real place, but is not a transcription of my parents arguing.

In the ninth grade I had a very cool science teacher. He told my class that on the day before winter break he’d help us tie-dye our lab coats. Unfortunately, I would be missing that class, so I told my friend to tie-dye my lab coat on my behalf. I didn’t want to be the only one with a plain lab coat. ​How awkward and uncool would that be? When I returned from winter break, strangely excited to dissect pond muck, I was surprised to see that I had the only tie-dyed lab coat in the class. Apparently my friends had so much fun tie-dying my lab coat, that it seemed beyond the point to tie-dye their own afterwards. Not to mention that they decided to dye the coat red, so I looked more like an extra in a Tarantino movie than a normal high school biology student.

You may be wondering what any of this had to do with the creative process. The answer is everything. From the pain of this experience comes one of my most popular haikus:

Dying in Tie-Dye

In my English Class

No, I am not a tampon

I swear it’s the coat

As you may notice, my poem says I was in English class, when in reality I was in Science class. This haiku is raw and emotional, but it also meets two important criteria. Comes from a real place? Check. Details changed? ​Check.

As I’ve mentioned, details are crucial when doing any type of creative work. Details make a story believable and compelling. If you were lying to your parents about your whereabouts, you wouldn’t simply say you are “going out”. At least I assume. I’ve never had to lie to my parents about my locations, as I usually spend most of my time with them. I don’t get out a lot.

Let’s do a quick exercise: What’s the strange detail in the following situation?

A woman is driving ​BLINDFOLDED to work.

No, it’s not the fact that a woman is going to work. And no, it’s not the fact that a woman is driving. The unusual detail is actually that the woman is wearing a blindfold. It’s kind of hidden, but if you look very carefully you can see it.

Once you’ve finished your first big piece of work, you may feel like future projects will never measure up. We’ve all been there. How was I ever gonna come up with something better than Allergies You Can Make Fun Of: A Podcast? It just happens.

It’s important to know your audience when sharing work. My brother’s speech at my Bat Mitzvah is a perfect example of this advice’s value.

I will present this anecdote using script format.


Noa, you did a great job today. You are my best friend, and now that I think of it, probably my favourite sister.


Um, what the hell?!


Oof. Very bad timing. Very bad.


(whispered to CLASSMATE #2)

Who’s Noa?

While a beautiful sentiment, it was neither the time nor the place.

Like I’ve said, it’s vital to feel out the crowd. However, take care not to deflect constructive criticism. When I handed my first copy of Understanding the Creative Process to my publisher (my dad), he simply shrugged and said “I don’t get it”. I wanted to turn around and punch the wall, but I stopped myself. I am still nursing a hand injury from the time I was told that “Steve Carell doesn’t have the availability to appear in your short film, so you should go ahead and write him out”.

For my closing remarks, I would like to share some inspirational words from someone I spend a lot of time with, my dermatologist. And since I live in Canada, this advice is practically free due to Universal Healthcare. She told me, “You need to relax and things will eventually start to clear up”.

The same is true for the creative journey that you are embarking upon. As long as you have fun, and apply enthusiasm to your craft once in the morning and then once again before you go to sleep, your project will be a success. How do you think I managed two editions of Modern Table Etiquette, and counting?

*Note: This piece was awarded 1st Place in the 2020 Milking Cat Summer Comedy Competition*


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