THE CREATIVE HABIT:  LEARN IT AND USE IT FOR LIFE.  A PRACTICAL GUIDE.  By Twyla Tharp.  NY:  Simon & Schuster 2003.  $25 Hardcover, $16 Paperback.

I was surprised when I saw a 2003 copyright on this book.  I thought it was a more recent release.  My next response was, “Why did it take me so long to find this?”

Twyla Tharp is one of the iconic artists of modern times.  She is a unique and groundbreaking choreographer.  Broadway audiences know her as the creative of MOVIN’ OUT, set to Billy Joel’s music.  She has a reputation as dedicated, passionate, and resolute.

This book reinforces that reputation.  Tharp shares of one of my strongest beliefs about creation — one doesn’t “wait” to “have” time — you make time, steal it, wrest it, wrestle it.  If a life in the arts is your choice, it is also your priority.  That means you have to remove other non-essentials that do not serve your life.  There are no excuses for not “getting around to it”.  If you are an artist or a writer or a choreographer — you DO it.

Tharp talks about triggering rituals (such as athletes use).  She talks about the need to subtract certain things from her life during intensely creative periods, such as movies, multi-tasking, numbers, and background music.  She has a system of creating “boxes” for each project (similar to my project-specific bins), keeping all her research and notebooks together and easily re-accessible once the project is complete.  She talks about “scratching” for ideas, categorizing, and making the most of one’s skills, and how to get out of creative ruts.

She mixes personal experiences and anecdotes with exercises.  A word of advice — don’t skip the exercises.  Because she is a choreographer and works in terms of movement and dimension, her exercises will get you off your butt and into action.  Although I discovered the volume at the Sandwich Library, I’m investing in my own copy.  This is a book I will return to year after year to shake me out of my own creative ruts.

–Devon Ellington

Amazon buy link here.

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