Books, On Story

On Creative Habit(s)

Recently I read The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp, the prolific Emmy Award-winning choreographer of Moving Out (2002-04), Singing in the Rain (1985), and Baryshnikov by Tharp 1984-85) fame. With hundreds of original works to her credit, Twyla is certainly no stranger to the creative process.

 A picture of TwylaTharp's book, "The Creative Habit."

My nicely used copy of The Creative Habit

After reading the intro and the first chapter, I thought to myself, “Here goes another book telling me how creative genius isn’t born, it’s just sweat and tears.” To date these oft-repeated prophecies haven’t done much to spur my inspiration, or rather perspiration, to buckle down into any creative process. They’ve always come across as pleasantries meant to superficially satiate the frustrations of a challenging process, like those proffered by acquaintances upon hearing the sufferings of a rocky relationship, “Relationships are A LOT of work. They’re worth it in the end, but they’re not all butterflies…”

But about 15 pages further in I found Twyla’s words to offer much more than pleasantries; she invites us into her own process of self discovery, and to the “life infrastructure” that has supported her overwhelming success.

In Rituals of Preparation (Chapter 2), Twyla talks about the simple daily routines she performs that prime the mind for work, for creative endeavors. She details her all-important routine of beginning each day at 5:30am to hail a taxi to the gym.In describing her mundane tasks as ritualistic, or even sublime, Twyla comes across as asking us to seek deeper meaning in our daily urban lives, to find the connections between the repetitive and the regal. The Tantric-like approach provides a much stronger impetus to staying disciplined with our routines than simply shouting stay disciplined.

Overall Twyla’s voice comes across as vulnerable, personable, strong and experienced. It’s a powerful combination that inspires trust in storytelling, and one that makes me want to continue the relationship, even without the butterflies and….whatever makes you happy.


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