“There have been many times when a song just came to me, when I didn’t feel I was forcing anything or trying too hard, but the creation just flowed into me. Usually this has involved significant “pump priming” — that is, diligent preparation, false starts, thinking and perhaps discussion, making many notes. But then it’s a new day and the magical experience of creation occurs.”
You may not know Stephen, but trust me, he knows a lot about the creative process. He wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway hit Wicked and Godspell, his very first musical (written way back in the 1970s!) is about to hit Broadway as well. In between, he’s written a number of other popular musicals and songs for a raft of Disney movies.
Some of Stephen’s advice is featured on a great site (www.musicalwriters.com). In one interview he talks about how he sparks creativity when he writes songs. Basically, it’s a two-stage process: Stage 1: Preparation, Stage 2: Revelation. When he works on a project, he first does a lot of research. He’ll “read a lot of related material and just jot down ideas and phrases that strike me. I may look at visual images — paintings or photographs. Imagine myself as the character and see what words or phrases, rhythms or sounds come to me. Just a lot of things to get my mind in the right place.”
In Stage 2, his goal is to give everything he’s learned the chance to percolate by getting out of the way of his unconscious mind. As he puts it, “I let go of all of it consciously and try to let my unconscious mind go to work. Sometimes I will do things like take a walk, take a shower, go for a drive, or even hit tennis balls or play solitaire, anything to get out of the way of my unconscious. And almost always, the creativity just starts to flow.”
This approach has sparked some of Stephen’s most popular songs. After doing lots of conscious thinking about them, he just let his creativity take over and the songs flowed out, virtually complete. Sounds like a strategy worth trying. Write on!