Incubation is one of the four stages of creativity. The others are Preparation, Illumination, and Verification. During the Incubation stage, we allow our ideas to sit with us for some time, allowing them to mature.

Incubation is one of the four stages of creativity. The others are Preparation, Illumination, and Verification. During the Incubation stage, we allow our ideas to sit with us for some time, allowing them to mature.

How Incubation works

When we're not actively thinking about something, our minds take short-term memories and convert them to long-term ones. We're making connections with other memories during this process, which can trigger that "aha!" moment while we're in the shower or taking a walk.

Encourage the Incubation of ideas

Capture the idea into a trusted system. Work on the idea by reviewing it regularly and expanding upon it. Set up your environment to allow Incubation. Go for walks, take a long shower. When you are stuck on an idea, take a break, or switch to something else.

An example Idea workflow

Here is a simple workflow you can experiment with. Your tools may vary.

  • Capture the idea on your phone. On Android, this may be Google Keep, but Drafts is an excellent option on iOS.
  • For ideas you want to develop and write about, create a new custom book in Readwise. Each related idea goes into the custom book as a new highlight.
  • Next, set up a Themed Review in Readwise. The Themed Review will send you the ideas by email on your desired schedule.
  • When you get my Themed Review, spend a few minutes reviewing the ideas and making changes (or deleting them). Add some notes and revisions.
  • Over time, the ideas become fully developed. Use them in a draft essay.

This simple process allows you to tackle ideas in small increments rather than in one sitting. Allowing time between sessions will be a game-changer since the ideas have time to mature.