The stages of creativity

Before I get cracking into today’s post I want to say a big thank you to you all, my readers.

The blog is going from strength to strength and has a steadily growing readership since Classical Guitar n Stuff moved to WordPress three months ago. August saw our greatest number of readers and readers from all corners of the globe checking the blog out – Australia, USA, UK, Sweden, Canada, Portugal, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, Finland, Argentina, Japan, Republic of Korea, Brazil, Italy, Greece and the list goes on! I’m seriously humbled and think it’s absolutely fantastic that this wee blog brings together and reverberates with all corners of the classical guitar community.

I’ve also received some really nice feedback, people emailing me directly to say they enjoy reading the blog, or that certain posts really resonate with them or have helped them. That’s blooming fantastic as it’s my primary raison d’être  for this blog. I’m so glad to help.

On which note, if there is anything you’d like me to cover in this blog or talk about or help you with, please don’t hesitate to send me an email or leave a comment in one of the comment boxes following the posts.

Right then, on with the stages of creativity!

I read an article recently on the Harvard Business Review blog  talking about the stages of creativity. Most things in this world are connected in some way or another and this article immediately made me think about the creative process on the guitar.

Apparently these stages, of which there are four (or sometimes five or more depending on who you ask), are quite clearly defined.


Jolly good, you might be saying at this point, but what has this got to do with me as a guitarist and how does knowing the stages of creativity help me? Well, firstly, as guitarists we right there in the thick of things with the creative process – be it composing or arranging a piece of music or deciding on an interpretation for a well-played and well-known piece of repertoire, there’s a whole lot of shaping and creating going on!

And then secondly, like most things in this life, to get the most our of something we must first understand its fundamental elements. So it is with creativity – to get the most out of our ability to create music or channel awesomely musical playing we must recognise the key parts of the creative process.

So what are the stages of creativity?

This is what the Harvard Business Review author (Tony Schwarz) had to say about the four key stages of creativity.

1. Saturation: Once the problem or creative challenge has been defined, the next stage of creativity is a left hemisphere activity that paradoxically requires absorbing one’s self in what’s already known. Any creative breakthrough inevitably rests on the shoulders of all that came before it. For a painter, that might mean studying the masters. For me, it involves reading widely and deeply, and then sorting, evaluating, organizing, outlining, and prioritizing.

2. Incubation: The second stage of creativity begins when we walk away from a problem, typically because our left hemisphere can’t seem to solve it. Incubation involves mulling over information, often unconsciously. Intense exercise can be a great way to shift into right hemisphere in order to access new ideas and solutions. After writing for 90 minutes, for example, the best thing I can do to jog my brain, is take a run

Photo credit: Mediocre2010

3. Illumination: Ah-ha moments — spontaneous, intuitive, unbidden — characterize the third stage of creativity. Where are you when you get your best ideas? I’m guessing it’s not when you’re sitting at your desk, or consciously trying to think creatively. Rather it’s when you’ve given your left hemisphere a rest, and you’re doing something else, whether it’s exercising, taking a shower, driving or even sleeping.

4. Verification: In the final stage of creativity, the left hemisphere reasserts its dominance. This stage is about challenging and testing the creative breakthrough you’ve had. Scientists do this in a laboratory. Painters do it on a canvas. Writers do it by translating a vision into words.

Very interesting stuff and most definitely applicable to the creative process on the guitar or the learning process, if you like, when bedding in and shaping a new piece.

I’ve written some articles in the recent past about some of these stages, but perhaps it’s time for a closer look, in sequence, at the creative process? What are your thoughts folks?


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