Creativity Step One

The first step to be creative is being prepared.

Being prepared means having all the information you need to know about the creative direction you will head (or maybe what is the unexpected creative direction).

Here's the project information I've learned that I need to get started:
  • Who's the audience? 
  • What's the story for this project? What's the mantra (the 3-5 word distillation of the project's essence) for this project?
  • When is it due? What milestones are there along the way? 
  • What's the budget? 
  • Who else is involved (other creatives, vendors, etc…)? 
  • Who has approval authority? 

I've found that quite often it takes more time getting the above information then actually doing the creative work. This is probably because in the process of collecting this information, I've gotten a pretty good handle on the project direction, have had time to let it simmer in my head, and the pieces seem to come together pretty quickly. 

It's in projects where I forget or "Don't have time" to do a preparation process that I find I have the most creative difficulty. I don't know where to start. I don't like any direction I've come up with. I feel like the deadline is approaching WAY too fast. Usually, a phone call or email to the client to gather a bit more information is extremely helpful, and often provides the missing piece to the creative puzzle.

What can you do on your next creative project to be better prepared? What have you found helpful in past preparation processes?