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|The Creative Habit : Learn it and Use it for Life
by Twyla Tharp.
This is the best book I read in 2003. It inspires the reader to move into the creative zone and do the work essential to being any kind of professional artist. Twyla Tharp (the leading and innovative choreographer) is a brilliant mentor and a no-nonsense delight.
Brendan McCarthy, in her marvelous review in Ballet Magazine, writes:
[Twyla Tharp] is a Puritan, has great certainties and is impatient of ambiguity ("I don't like grey. That is how I am.").
... The core of her argument is in the book's title: that creativity is less a matter of genius than of disciplined work habits. Her rituals - notably her daily two-hour gym session beginning at 5.30 a.m. - matter; not merely because they shape her day, but because they are a source of strength when creativity is barren and inspiration comes slow.
Read the book. Do the exercises. Do your art.
Twyla Tharp is relentless in bringing you the good news:
|"Creativity ... is within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. "|
All it takes is consistent effort, organization, and commitment. Show up with dedication. Do the work with full commitment.
Through 12 chapters and 32 exercises, Twyla Tharp shows you how to discover the rungs of your ladder and how to climb with discipline, consistency, and grace. Here's how, chapter by chapter.
And we urge you to buy your own copy of The Creative Habit, so that you can read the text and exercises.
The chapters are:
|"In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative."|
She urges you to do the exercises she provides, as their purpose is to help you to develop the thing that causes you to read her book - they help you develop your creative skills.
|"automatic but decisive patterns of behavior at the beginning of the creative process."|
These are vital to her and she advocates that you establish yours.
What do you fear? Mockery? Rejection? Incompetence? What do you allow to distract you? Movies? Numbers? Music? Your rituals, urges Tharp, help you focus on what you intend to do.
Then she has 4 exercises. One is to figure out "what is the one tool that feeds your creativity and is so essential that without it you feel naked and unprepared." Another has you take a week without one of the things that is a distraction - newspapers, say, or speaking.
Then she has 2 more exercises. My favorite is the one on watching a pair of people and listing what they do, particularly the "interesting" actions.
Then she has 3 more exercises. As a non-dancer, I am interested in her "muscle memory" exercise.
I find the box is most useful at three critical stages:"
"when you're getting going,
when you're lost,
and after you've finished
(that's when you can look back and see the directions you didn't take, the ideas that intrigued you
but didn't fit this time around and might be the start of your next box). "
Then she has 1 exercise on how to begin.
She has 5 exercises on Scratching. Her favorite is "Chaos and coins." I am drawn to "Reading Archaeologically" and "A Dozen Eggs." Check out her book for what works for you.
There's a fine line between good planning and over planning, "
" In creative endeavors luck is a skill. "
Then she has 4 more exercises. One of my favorites is to be generous. Another is to work with the best.
Spine, to put it bluntly, begins with your first strong idea."
" Having a spine lets me know where I am starting from and where I want to go."
" It keeps me on message, but it is not the message itself."
How do you find the Spine? Induce it with Ritual. Discover it by talking about your project to a friend, by recalling your original intention. Read her book to learn more.
Then she has 3 exercises. My favorite is the Metaphor Quotient.
You're only kidding yourself if you put creativity before craft.
Craft is where our best efforts begin. "
" You may wonder which comes first: the skill or the hard work.
But that's a moot point. The Zen master cleans his own studio.
So should you. "
" Analyze your own skill set.
See where you're strong and where you need dramatic improvement,
and tackle those lagging skills first. "
Then she has 3 more exercises. I love her approach to taking a skill inventory. I am surprised by the skill that is the most important to her:
|" Of all my skills, none is more important than the ability to organize my time. "|
A bad habit - that is, one that does not produce good results - is a rut.
... Exorcise the rut.
Exercise the groove."
She looks at how you enter a rut and how you get out of it. She has 4 exercises to help you clamber out.
|" To get the full benefit of failure you have to understand the reasons for it."|
Is it a failure of Skill? of Concept? of Judgment? of Nerve? of Repetition? of Denial?
She describes a specific public situation where she had to cope with Failure and shows how she worked her way through that.
Then she has 2 exercises, including Building Your Own Validation Squad.
|" There is no long run without devotion, commitment, persistence."|
She describes the way she is most productive, in a creative bubble:
I eliminated every distraction, sacrificed almost everything that gave me pleasure,
placed myself in a single-minded isolation chamber, and structured my life
so that everything was not only feeding the work but subordinated to it.
It is not a particularly sociable way to operate.
It's actively anti-social.
On the other hand, it is pro-creative."
We highly recommend The Creative Habit : Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp.
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