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Creativity and the Writing of Musicals

Questions and Answers from Stephen Schwartz. Used with Permission.

Creative process for Musical Writing

Stephen Schwartz answers questions about creativity:

-Do you believe creativity works best within a group, individually or does it not matter? Why or why not?

I think it can work well both ways. There's something wonderful about the collaborative process, where one person's idea can trigger creative responses from others. Perhaps it's a little easier that way. But obviously most of my work is done by myself as an individual, and it's very exciting when an idea, a tune, or the solution to a problem just appears in your head as if out of the ether.

-I am interested in your opinion of how one would stimulate one's own creativity.

For me it is a matter of doing a lot of preparation and then getting out of the way of my unconscious mind. If I have a specific assignment, I will do a lot of research, 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. Then I will 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.

-Do you think management of creativity is possible?

Absolutely. I think the job of a professional writer is to learn how to harness his or her creativity in service of deadlines, specific problems to be solved, and deliberate goals. Each individual has to develop his or her own process to be able to be creative on demand.

-Think of a time when you were at your creative best. This can be anything! Please describe this time.

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. I would mention a few of my songs that seemed to arrive this way -- with a lot of preparation but no apparent work once they started to flow: "For Good" from WICKED, "Meadowlark" from THE BAKER'S WIFE, "West End Avenue" from THE MAGIC SHOW -- three songs that are among my most popular. Once I started writing them, they seemed to arrive fully formed all at once.

Recommended books

Comments by Carol de Giere, webmaster.

The Artists WayJulia Cameron, The Artist's Way, etc.

Stephen Schwartz is among the thousands of artistic people who have appreciated The Artist's Way, and has sometimes followed the Morning Pages practice, as recommended by Julia.

I recommend all of Julia's books and tapes, including the The Right to Write and others. She also teaches in New York at the Open Center, Learning Annex, and Omega Institute from time to time.

Fearless Creating (Inner Workbook.) - Some people prefer Eric Maiesel's approach to creating without fear.

Natalie Goldberg - Writing Down the Bones and other books - Link to a slew of books about writing:

I also recommend her audiobooks. It's great fun to follow some of her exercises.

Organizing for the Creative Person - This can be really helpful in a practical way.


To send suggestions, comments, or questions write to carol@musicalschwartz.com

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