The creative habit : learn it and use it for life : a practical guide

by Twyla Tharp

Other authorsMark Reiter (Author)
Paper Book, 2006




New York : Simon & Schuster, 2006.


One of the world's leading creative artists, choreographers, and creator of the smash-hit Broadway show, Movin' Out, shares her secrets for developing and honing your creative talents--at once prescriptive and inspirational, a book to stand alongside The Artist's Way and Bird by Bird. All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit. It is the product of preparation and effort, and is within reach of everyone. Whether you are a painter, musician, businessperson, or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, The Creative Habit provides you with thirty-two practical exercises based on the lessons Twyla Tharp has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career. In "Where's Your Pencil?" Tharp reminds you to observe the world -- and get it down on paper. In "Coins and Chaos," she gives you an easy way to restore order and peace. In "Do a Verb," she turns your mind and body into coworkers. In "Build a Bridge to the Next Day," she shows you how to clean the clutter from your mind overnight. Tharp leads you through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work, and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide-open realm of possibilities can be energizing, and Twyla Tharp explains how to take a deep breath and begin...… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ntempest
A wonderful book on creativity and how to organize your life to make room in your day for your creative side and for creative fulfillment, regardless what you do for a living. Tharp's medium is dance, but her thoughts and advice apply to anyone working in a creative field, such as writing,
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photography, painting, etc. An interesting look into the mind of a creative woman.
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LibraryThing member chlorodyne
A self-help book I'm not ashamed to have sitting around, which is saying quite a bit. It's essentially a guide to organizing one's creative life. Tharp draws on her long experience as a choreographer, but does an admirable job of making her ideas practical and accessible to those in other artistic
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disciplines. (This book was a gift to me from my sister, a dancer, and I've found it a help to my photography.)
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LibraryThing member edella
What makes someone creative? How does someone face the empty page, the empty stage and making something where nothing existed before? Not just a dilemma for the artist, it is something everyone faces everyday. What will I cook that isn't boring? How can I make that memo persuasive? What sales pitch
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will increase the order, get me the job, lock in that bonus? These too, are creative acts, and they all share a common need: proper preparation. For Twyla Tharp, creativity is no mystery; it's the product of hard work and preparation, of knowing one's aims and one's subject, of learning from approaches taken in the past. It's a process undertaken every day. It's a habit. The Creative Habit is not merely a look inside the mind of a remarkable woman with remarkable skills, but a programmatic, inspiring, encouraging guide to help each of us achieve our fullest creative potential.
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LibraryThing member bamajasper53
Our College of Fine Arts at Troy University chose The Creative Habit as an across-the-curriculum book that all students and faculty are reading and referring to in their classes. The advice and observations from Twyla work effortlessly into my own classes and have generated many stimulating
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discussions. It is exciting to see students so enthused with reading assignments! I highly recommend this book. It will recharge your own creative habit.
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LibraryThing member amaraduende
I'm really enjoying this! I've been reading it bit by bit on my lunch breaks. It's helpful in terms of thinking through your own creative process and also hearing about someone else's. I think creativity is one of those things people don't reflect on very much and aren't aware of.
LibraryThing member stacy_chambers
Read this. You'll find at least one thing to help you out creatively. I did.
LibraryThing member figre
I have to start with the fact that I disagree with what I see as the basic premise of this book. Twyla Tharp makes the case that, for a person to be creative, they must build a structured environment, develop a pattern of habits, and adhere to specific steps. It reminds me of a presentation on
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creativity I saw a number of years ago where the presenter stated, "To be successfully creative you must exactly follow these five steps."

Creativity does not lend itself to being put in a bucket, locked in a box, or sealed in an envelope. I agree that creativity must become a habit, but to build such strictures around the approach can limit the effectiveness of such creativity.

I say this realizing full well that Ms. Tharp's creativity cannot be questioned. She has not received her dance world accolades without an incredible amount of talent, skill, and...creativity. And that is why I have to temper all comments with the realization that no one approach to creativity works for every person. My disorder, disarray, dissonance, and disorganization will not work for everyone. Neither will Ms. Tharp's structured approaches.

And, I have to realize that, in spite of how I was put off by the beginning of this book, I came away with a number of good ideas on how to approach and drive creativity. Spoiler Alert! This review is going to end with the recommendation that you read this book.

But, to start, I was so put off by the beginning of the book that I almost didn't continue. What was the problem? Well, skipping the fact that the second chapter was titled "Rituals of Preparation" (based on my previous comments, you can see how I might be rankled by such a title), following are some of the off-putting quotes from the first chapter.

"I've learned that being creative is a full-time job with its own daily patterns. That's why...the most productive [writers] get started early in the morning , when the world is quiet..." I agree with the first sentence. The second is a gross generalization. I know many writers need a daily pattern. But some use mornings, some use afternoons, some use evenings, some use rum, and some waste time until the muse strikes – any moment, any time. Morning can be a good time to get work done. But that does not mean it is the best time to accomplish creativity.

"The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more." The habit of instilling creativity is a good thing. But "routine" – even a routine to develop creativity – does as much to inhibit creativity as drive it. The basic meaning of routine implies rote practices and repetitive processes. Here's a definition of routine taken from "Regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure." These are not the building blocks of creativity. I recognize that Ms. Tharp is trying to emphasize the habits of creativity, but an emphasis on routine may be more detrimental than beneficial.

"I will keep stressing the point about creativity being augmented by routine and habit...It is the perennial debate...between the beliefs that all creative acts are born of (a) some transcendent, inexplicable Dionysian act of inspiration...or (b) hard work. I come down on the side of hard work." I agree that creativity is augmented by routine and hard work. And it is definitely true that no one can succeed without training, learning, foot-pounds of energy spent at the typewriter/computer/canvas/instrument like Nemo blasting away at the Toccata and Fugue. But hard work and habits are not the answer. You can't sell me that particular piece of swamp land. Part of the process, yes; but not the answer.

Here is my problem with what I call "Structured Creativity". I am fine with developing patterns that help you reach your creative center. What I am not fine with is when someone believes that is the only way creativity will work. When you delve into how ideas are formed, some of the best arrive in situations away from normal work/thought/creative environments. It is about letting synapses connect when you least expect it. Serendipity, when allowed its head, strikes at the darnedest times.

But, in spite of all my ranting, my raving, my beating of breast, my cries into the wilderness, I think this is a book anyone interesting in creativity should read. [The crowd shies away, aghast at the inferred duplicity of the writer.] In fact, I recently gave a presentation on creativity and ended by including this book on the suggested reading list.

How, after all my castigations, can I suggest you read this book? Because within are some really good ideas about how creativity can be driven. And, while I don't agree with the formulaic approach Ms. Tharp promotes, I do believe people have to develop a certain "habit" of creativity which will help it occur without really thinking about it.

There are some good ideas in here – tools and techniques and suggestions that can invigorate creative processes. And that leads to my final recommendation – go for the tools and techniques and ideas, and ignore the overall structure. In other words, don't make her habits your habits, but wantonly steal her ideas.
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LibraryThing member debnance
I can’t figure out why I wasn’t wild about this book. Theme of creativity? Check. Lots of prompts? Check. Readable? Check.

So I really can’t explain it. Maybe I’m just off a bit in my reading. In any case, for me, it was just meh.
LibraryThing member margaret.pinard
Fantastic resource for creatives, for people excited about life, for people getting older and still wanting to make their mark on the world. So many good metaphors, examples, anecdotes, examples. Just, perfect.
LibraryThing member sonyaseattle
The only book on creativity that I find myself going back to again and again. Twyla offers a series of exercises to spark creativity, but also has a lot of insight into the creative process. Her specialty is dance, but her thoughts are applicable to any creative field. I really enjoy and recommend
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this over all other books in its genre.
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LibraryThing member MargaretPinardAuthor
Fantastic resource for creatives, for people excited about life, for people getting older and still wanting to make their mark on the world. So many good metaphors, examples, anecdotes, examples. Just, perfect.
LibraryThing member sturlington
Some very good advice on fashioning a creative life.

Read in 2015.
LibraryThing member deldevries
Inspiration and genuine creativity in each chapter. I'm sure that there are new ideas or ways of thinking for anyone here. The book certainly was inspiring to me and helped to generate new idea and ways of thinking.
LibraryThing member dazedbybooks
Twyla Tharp, a well-known choreographer since the sixties, details out the creative process steps in great detail. She starts by detailing out the preparation steps, continues onto describing the creation and evolution processes, and ends with the final creative project/piece and the analyzation of
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feedback received from one's audience. She also discusses the learnings that can be taken from all experiences throughout the process, both positive and negative. Because choreography involves several different creative layers, talents, skills, and education - music, dance, physical fitness, teaching, etc.

This book was well organized in a way that any creative professional or aspiring creative professional can see a bullet point list of the exact stages of creativity and pinpoint where his or her focus should be at different times. Many exercises are also given for each chapter to assist in nurturing these best practices and excelling at creative endeavors. This book is one that is good to keep on hand and refer back to for a refresher anytime you get in a "rut". Although I feel that she focuses a little more on choreography and dance than necessary, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book, even if I didn't really follow some of the concepts when referencing her profession. I also didn't find those parts of the book particularly helpful or enjoyable, but some of the content did provide supporting elements.

I would recommend this book to anyone struggling with their creativity, desiring to become more of a creative person or starting a new creative endeavor, or a professional creative even just to go back and master some of the basic elements that may be skipped or breezed pass out of habit and repetitiveness. As a creative professional myself, I will be referencing this book often and using the exercises to expand my creative mind.
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LibraryThing member scottcholstad
This is a pretty good book. Not necessarily the best of its type, but to be candid, I can’t be objective with this one because I’ve been a lifelong Twyla Tharp fan, have seen her company perform several times, think she’s a genius, so naturally I’ll be biased in favor of most things she
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would produce. So, just being honest. Still, that said, I DO think it’s a quality work that might appeal to many people, so definitely recommended.
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LibraryThing member antao
Surely the real issue here is that the people have a fairly strict definition of what 'art' is. In the blue corner we have people who think that art must be a faithful rendition of a visual scene using traditional media (pencil, paint, marble etc...). In the red corner we have people who require
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that their art convey ideas. I know which group I belong to, but I see no sense in trying to convince others of my way of thinking. You might as well tell me that I'm wrong for not liking bananas. I ain't going to change my mind. As an afterthought - I'd be curious to know which 'corner' the people who agree with this sentiment belong to.

Different forms, styles or genres of art each have many different possible purposes. Conveying an idea or message can be one of them, sure. But to say that "If one has no message, skill - in art - is pointless.", shows your ignorance to several categories of art that display beauty, skill, function, or substance of some other kind. As an example, there are many forms of music that do not contain lyrics that may or may not convey an intended "message" but are beautiful arrangements nonetheless. These are still art.

Similarly, the code that runs this website can be considered a work of art but what message are its creators trying to convey? Indeed, and I'm not disagreeing with people out there, but unless someone else can label it as "art" then it cannot be sold to yet someone else as "art" - that other someone being the sort of person who is incapable of making their own judgment about whether they like something or not. All of this is a reflection on a wider dumbing down of culture that is the result of successive governments refusing to acknowledge the importance of the arts to wider society. An active artistic output is a hallmark of a healthy society. We don't have to agree about it, but we do need to have it available to us. Thus in a world where, to quote Oscar Wilde, "people know the price of everything and the value of nothing", it requires other people to tell us whether we should like something or not, or consider it art or not.

Twyla Tharp's life experiences are mostly dance-oriented. Not my cup of tea.
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Twyla Tharp believes creativity is not something you are just born with. It shouldn't be considered a gift. Instead, it is a craft to be honed. It should be cultivated and tended to just like a garden. There is a deliberate effort to creativity. While I didn't participate in any of her exercises,
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her methods were clear.
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LibraryThing member bobbybslax
The writing isn't special, but it works. It isn't a slog, either.


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