"Though its context is a choreographer's world, its principles are universally applicable and sound....It could change your life." -- Elizabeth Zimmer, "The Village Voice"
--This text refers to the
The full title of this book is 'The Creative Habit. Learn it and use it for life. A practical guide'. And that's genuinely what it is... a practical guide, setting out and exploring the habits and attitudes that sustain a fully creative life.
Twyla Tharp, the world famous choreographer, now in her sixties, details with clarity, style and authority how to keep yourself productive and motivated even when you think you've run completely out of enthusiasm.
She writes about the structure and organisational aspects of creative projects - 'Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box'; scratching for new ideas in potentially fertile places, like scratching a lottery ticket to see if you've won; mastering the underlying skills of your creative domain and building your creativity on the solid foundations of those skills; getting out of ruts (stuckness) and creating grooves (productive flow).
The habits she describes are woven together with stories from her long career and anecdotes from her wide-ranging creative friendships. Unlike other books I've read on the topic of active creativity, she includes a chapter on what a creative life means in 'the long run'. How the great masters continue to grow and develop their skill over many decades.
The Creative Habit is a personal account of what works by someone who's lived a vibrantly successful creative life. Twyla Tharp's writing is sharply intelligent and has real authority and vitality to it.
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It is rare to find a book that discusses the artistic process and the creative act as it is experienced and felt by an actual artist, as opposed to creativity in the corporate workplace, particularly in such a personal and straight talking account. With this perspective, the book offers practical, effective user-friendly exercises and advice on how to prepare, begin, sustain and complete an artistic project. There may not be any stunning new insights here, but no matter - the author has an unique viewpoint and ability to cast new light and original metaphors onto the usual concepts (example; an artist needs to be aware of and true to their "creative dna") And, in a way that's the strength and the point of the book - like it or not, creativity comes with hard graft and habit. Doesn't sound romantic, but it is strangely comforting - after reading you are left with a sense that you knew all this anyway - you just aren't applying yourself with enough commitment and discipline! This in itself makes the enormity of the task ahead somewhat more acheivable, and within your grasp. As an ex-dancer, the language used resonates well with me (walking into an empty white room), and its great to see an emphasis on the importance of physical intelligence, but the author draws on such a fascinating and wide range of examples from other media, it is appropriate for all artists. Twyla has a refreshingly direct conversational style which, though not for everyone (the colloquialisms annoy my husband) cuts through any attempts of artistic ego and pretentions (example - "Someone has done it before? Honey, it's all been done before....Get over yourself" but it is nevertheless thoroughly detailed (memory and skill being two things that are given multiple categories). A good, illuminating book.
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As is my custom when a new year begins, I recently re-read this book and The Collaborative Habit. The insights that Twyla Tharp shares in them are, if anything, more valuable now than when the books were first published.
It would be a mistake to ignore the reference to "habit" in their titles because almost three decades of research conducted by K. Anders Ericsson and his associates at Florida State University clearly indicate that, on average, at least 10,000 hours of must be invested in "deliberate," iterative practice under strict and expert supervision to achieve peak performance, be it playing a game such as chess or playing a musical instrument such as the violin. Natural talent is important, of course, as is luck. However, with rare exception, it takes about ten years of sustained, focused, supervised, and (yes) habitual practice to master the skills that peak performance requires.
Tharp characterizes this book as a ""practical guide" but she also frames much of its material within a spiritual context. The creative process can probably be traced back to the earliest humans and yet so much of it remains a mystery. When Henri Matisse was asked if he was always painting, he replied, "No but when the muse visits me, I better have a brush in my hand." Of course, he was also prepared to transform an in inspiration into a work of art...and did on countless occasions.
In the first chapter, Tharp acknowledges what she characterizes as "a philosophical tug of war...It is the perennial debate, born in the Romantic era, between the beliefs that all creative acts are born of (a) some transcendent, inexplicable Dionysian act of inspiration, a kiss from God on your brow that allows you to give the world The Magic Flute, or (b) hard work.Read more ›
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I was attracted to this book because I like to get ideas for how to improve my writing from reading about what others use to feed their creative efforts. I have been an admirer of Twyla Tharp's for a long time, and feel slightly connected to her by having attended the same high school after she graduated and knowing her twin brothers and sister there. The Creative Habit is a remarkable book on creative activities that anyone involved in dance, music, painting, sculpting, writing or theater will find very relevant. If you have a good imagination, you will also be able to extend the concepts here to other fields that require creativity such as business. Where most books on creativity focus on helping you get into a brief creative groove, Ms. Tharp's work focuses on having that groove all the time in your life. Her book is informed by not only her own very creative career . . . but also by extensive contact with other creative people and having read about how others have created in the past. I found her to be the best read person on creativity whose writing I have seen.Read more ›