Bit by Bit: What Stephen Sondheim Taught Me About Creativity

Each time I think about creating anything—a story, a design, a business—a specific Sondheim tune comes to mind. This song rattles around my head, looping through the nooks and crannies.

“Bit by bit, putting it together.”

The tension spawned by the trills of the keyboard and the quick rhythm of the rhyme pushes me to action. I write words, knit stitches, send emails, have conversations.

“Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art.”

Expressing creativity is a series of these small steps, each one pushing you forward to the next one and the next. Each step building to the full expression, the manifestation of meaning, the piece of art, your creation.

“Small amounts, adding up to make a work of art.”

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s a “work” of art. Your work. All of those little steps coming together to form the full piece.

“Art isn’t easy
Every minor detail is a major decision
Have to keep things in scale
Have to hold to your vision”

But really, is the joy in the work about the ease with which it is made? Sometimes. Sometimes it is. That smooth slide where you are in the zone and that which was so difficult comes easy now. But that only comes after the challenge, the thought that you can do something you haven’t done before, that you can achieve by lifting to the next level of your own vision.

And that happens one small step at a time.

“The art of making art
Is putting it together, bit by bit”

That’s what Stephen Sondheim taught me about creativity.

Full Broadway version – Putting it Together
Putting It Together, Barbra Streisand

***And many thanks to all of the others who emphasized the importance of small steps to me including knitting, Jill Badonsky, and Emerald Mountain.