Creative Process: Walt Disney


In his book Strategies of Genius, Robert Dilts quotes a Disney animator as saying there were three Walt Disneys, “The dreamer, the realist and the spoiler. You never knew which was coming to a meeting.”

He goes on to say that creativity is a combination of these three elements.

The Dreamer is necessary for creativity in order to form new ideas and goals. The Realist is necessary for creativity as a means to transform ideas into concrete expressions. The Critic is necessary for creativity as a filter and as a stimulus for refinement.

There are a lot of self-help books and experts that tell you the dreamer is the only one of the three you’ll need. They say that the realist and critic are evil and need to be stopped at all costs. Often imagination is extolled as fragile flower to be cherished and never judged. One of the most common bits of creativity advice it to silence your inner-critic.

Isn’t it only bad when you try and do all these things at once or get stuck in one without the other two? As the quote above says, you don’t bring all three to the same meeting. Perhaps you should just mute your inner-critic while you’re in a creative burst and then schedule a meeting with it the next day. Reality is going to impact your idea whether you want it to or not, so you might as schedule a meeting with it as well.

If you were going to break this down into a usable process it would be:

  1. Pure creativity.
  2. What don’t I like about it? How can I improve on the idea?
  3. Is the idea possible? Will the world like it? Will it succeed?

Is there one part of this process that you can’t do well? Is something holding you back? Try breaking it down into these three steps and seeing what happens.

Dream it, realize it, improve it and then let go of it. It may take years to finish a project, but it sure sounds simple when you say it like that.

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