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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2007
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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69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2004
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 17 January 2012
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." She adds, "Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That's it in a nutshell."

Throughout the remainder of her book, Tharp draws heavily upon her own personal as well as professional experiences (she would probably not make that distinction) while citing countless examples of other real-world situations that indicate "There are no `natural' geniuses." However, there are immensely creative people in every domain of human initiative. Therein, I think, is her primary purpose: To convince everyone who reads this book that they can be creative if they are willing to work hard enough.

Here is a representative selection of what she affirms:

o "In order to be creative you have to know how to be creative."
o "Build up your tolerance for solitude."
o "Trust your muscle memory" when physically exercising.
o "If you're like me, reading is the first line of defense against an empty head."
o "You never want the planning to inhibit the natural evolution of your work."
o "Work with the best."
o "Never have a favorite weapon." (Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of the Five Rings, circa 1645)
o "Build a bridge to the next day."
o "Know when to stop tinkering."
o "Creating dance is the thing I know best. It is how I recognize myself."

There is so much of enduring (and endearing) value in this book. Perhaps (just perhaps) this brief commentary helps to explain why I read The Creative Habit and The Collaborative Habit at least once a year and consult passages in them more often. Oscar Wilde once advised, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." Those who require proof of that need look no further than Twyla Tharp whose career is her art...and whose art is her life.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
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.
Some of the issues she addresses include how to get started ("I Walk into a White Room"), preparation processes ("Rituals of Preparation"), your creative perspective ("Your Creative DNA"), drawing on your experiences ("Harness Your Memory"), getting your research and organized ("Before You Can Think out of the Box, You Have to Start with a Box"), finding inspiration when you have none ("Scratching"), taking advantage of the unexpected ("Accidents Will Happen"), having a clear idea of what you are trying to create ("Spine"), becoming competent in the necessary disciplines ("Skill"), dealing with stalls ("Ruts and Grooves"), learning from setbacks ("An 'A' in Failure"), and building on what you have done before to be more creative ("The Long Run"). Each chapter has exercises, many of which were new to me. I found the idea of either moving or thinking about moving to add new dimensions to my understanding of creative problems I am trying to solve now.
I felt tremendously validated to find that most of my writing habits are identical to Ms. Tharp's ones for choreography. I even keep boxes full of material for projects I'm working on.
The material in the book on how she switched from being a choreographer who could dance all of her roles to one who had to use others to dance those roles was especially interesting. Few works on creativity talk about how to shift from doing to enabling others to do as part of your creativity.
I was impressed that she disciplines more hours of her day than I do. That made me realize that I have room to improve in my creative habits . . . and inspired me to want to improve. That was a great gift.
If you want to be more creative in your profession, I strongly urge you to read and apply this book. It will make an enormous difference in the long run!
Thanks you, Ms. Tharp! Please take another bow!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2009
It started off as an aspiring read, especially highlighting the importance of routine to creativity. However, it slipped in a '7 step' guide to tackling any issues and each chapter became a little long winded. Well worth having on the book shelf though, as it does provide some useful insights.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2013
If I could boil this book down to its essence, I would say the main theme is: if you want to be creative, just make a start. But Tharp gives all sorts of tips on how to get started, how to be inspired, how to approach tasks. It really is a fascinating insight into how she maintained her creative life, and I found it a very inspiring book. My main problem regarding being creative had been a big block in just starting and getting on with it. I found the answer and the advice I really needed in this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 May 2014
I found this book very interesting, as it gave me a new look on things. The general outlook of Ms Tharp is very different from mine, but actually her view of creativity and the techniques she describes made me rethink a couple of my presumptions. I will probably not go over to her camp 100%, but she makes many compelling points which will stay with me - comparing her results and mine really made me wonder ....
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on 23 August 2011
I really found this book inspiring. It shows that creativity is one part passion and inspiration and 3 parts hard work. Twyla share with you the techniques that she uses on herself and her students in order to be a great dancer. Though most of the examples are from dancing, it can still relate to other types of creative pursuits as the message spans all genres.

I also found it well written and different from the personal development books which usually focus on steps and techniques. Here story telling is woven into technique making it an interesting read rather than just a technical one!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2009
Don't let the fact that this is written from experience in the world of dance put you off at all. It is a fascinating read, with real, practical tools for developing the creative habit that keeps you going through tough times as well as good, no matter whether you write, paint, sculpt or do any other art form. The discipline involved is the same, and as far as this book goes, it really "does what it says on the tin" i.e. help you learn it and use it for life.

Highly recommended.
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on 13 February 2013
At last, a book about the creative life that does exactly what it says on the tin. There is a lot of personal insight here but, importantly, there is just a lot of straight common-sense advice about the everyday reality of earning your living as a creative - and it's mostly organisation, discipline and hard work. My thanks to Twyly for shaking me out of my creative rut.
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