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Sherlock Holmes and The 4 Stages of Creativity

I often envision Sherlock pouring over notes and experiments with feverish energy. His brows knitted and his hands smeared with chemicals. If he isn't on the case, I often imagine him sitting on a couch lazing about. One of the things I rarely actually think about is his immense imagination. Imagination often requires us to be creative. Let's explore this a little bit more.

Creative Thinking Is A Process

The Problem Of Thor Bridge

In this story, the wife of a brutal man has been murdered with a bullet in her head. Her body is found late at night towards the edge of a bridge. The governess has been implicated in the crime with multiple points of evidence pointing squarely at her. When Holmes is consulted about the case Holmes he states, "It may surprise you to is the problem itself which attracts me."

Holmes' love of the strange and unconventional is one of the things that interests us about the detective but it is also what stimulates the great detective mentally. What are some things that he does to think creatively?


Preparation requires preliminary gathering of resources. In the case of Holmes, he often has to gather the evidence and supporting information in order to help him set up his hypothesis. In The Problem of Thor Bridge, Holmes needs to interview a pretty hostile millionaire who has fallen in love with the woman he claims did not commit the crime. Additionally, he has to interview the accused woman. What are some things we might have to do to prepare for our creative endeavors? #study

  • Spend time figuring out the resources you will need.

  • Gather the facts.

  • Spend time examining examples of successful people in our field of interest.

  • Create unique opportunities to learn new things to expand your mindset. #learntoloveagain


The incubation stage involves allowing the things learned to settle. Often we can beat our head against the books by trying to solve complex problems. But this can often leave us feeling drained and the problem remains outside of our reach. When presented with problems Holmes often says things like, "This is a 3 pipe problem." He is intentionally spending time away from the problem so he can allow his subconscious mind room to work out the complexity of the problem. The effect will almost feel like a eureka moment. Heres what we do to get the desired effect. #learning

  • Take a walk

  • Do something non associated with the current problem.

  • Take a nap.

  • Have a conversation or spend time with friends. Maybe play a game.


Once the problem has been ruminated on, you will likely encounter a really cool feeling. Your brain has begun to reorder and figure out the problem without you consciously doing anything. The time you spent away from the problem has illuminated it and turned it into something that you can now understand. Here's some tips to illumination

  • Revisit the problem with fresh eyes. This often illuminates the problem and makes the solution very clear.

  • Explain your results to someone. If you can explain your results to someone, you understand the problem clearly enough to express/explain it.

The important elements of illumination has little to do with your actual conscious control. This phase/stage sort of works itself out on its own. You don't really need to do much of anything other than allow it to happen.


In the stories of Holmes, this often involves him visiting the actual crime scene and looking at specific pieces of information that support his hypothesis or contradict it. In the case of The Problem of Thor Bridge, Holmes conducts a field test to verify his conclusions that the murdered wife, likely committed suicide.

"At the words he raised the pistol to his head, and then let go his grip. In an instant it had been whisked away by the weight of the stone, had struck with a sharp crack against the parapet, and had vanished over the side into the water."

Holmes conducts a field test to verify his conclusions. What can we do to verify our findings of complex problems?

  • Test your results.

  • Find experienced professionals that you can ask to help you validate your conclusions.

Regardless of your field of interest, creativity is a valuable skill for problem solving. Use the above outline and tips to help you stay creative.


If you want to download this article I am supplying a link above. I won't do this with every post, but for certain ones I will turn them into PDFs that can be stored and reread off the site. Thank you Maisha for the suggestion. Happy learning everyone.

Works Cited

Shetkar, Reshma, et al. "Association between cyclic meditation and creative cognition: Optimizing connectivity between the frontal and parietal lobes." International Journal of Yoga, vol. 12, no. 1, 2019, p. 29. Health Reference Center Academic, Accessed 4 Mar. 2019.

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