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Review: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

December 22, 2011

Those who follow me on might think I didn’t like this book as it took me nearly two months to read. The reality is that I was so swept away with inspiration in the first two chapters that I was a writing fiend. And then I got busy with work stuff, passed a test, got a raise. This is a few months ago now … Moving on.

This book has changed my life. And perhaps I adore it more than most because it played to my interests and was visually beautiful as well as inspiring and thoughtful.

Twyla Tharp is a celebrated choreographer whom I had never heard of before picking up this book. Now I admire her greatly for her insight and passion, as well as organization and structure in her creative life. Most importantly, she had shared that knowledge with the rest of us.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t believe in talent. I believe in hard work. So does Twyla. The Creative Habit teaches you how to maintain creativity on a daily basis. Creativity truly is half habit. You have to do it every day or your creativity loses it’s muscle memory.

This book is full of personal experiences from Twyla, which means talk of music and movement, ballet and Broadway. This is something I’ve always been interested in so it didn’t bother me in the slightest though I realize some readers might not like it. However, Twyla also shares quotes and stories from creative-types in other fields, such as painters, musicians and yes, even writers.

The most powerful tool in this book is Twyla’s Creative Autobiography questionnaire. It is thirty-three questions long. I plan on retaking this helpful quiz every few years, just to make sure I recognize myself and see how I’ve changed. Here are a few of the questions I liked most:

  • What is the first creative moment you remember?
  • What is your creative ambition?
  • What do you and your role models have in common?
  • Define muse.
  • When you work, do you love the process or the result?
  • What is your idea of mastery?

Is this book full of completely new ideas? No. I’ve actually heard most of what she had to say before in some form or another but never in one complete source.

And as a writer, I have to give props to the ghost writer on this project, Mark Reiter.  I never knew that non-fiction writing could be so beautiful. I wonder how many of the descriptions of movement and dance were worded by Twyla or Mark.

I have a project in mind that centers on a girl at a ballet school and the descriptions in this book of movement were incredible to me. I could actually picture it. Gorgeous.

If you have any desire to lead a creative life, whether you’re a writer or dancer, this book give you some great insight into the hard work and habit needed to maintain your creativity. Enjoy. I certainly did.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 22, 2011 1:06 am

    This sounds like a book for me. I DESPISE the mindset of writing “when the muse is around”, because I would never write anything. Having been creative in music since I was five, I believe writing isn’t any different than any other art in that way…

    but then again, my stupid mind likes to haunt me with thoughts like, “You don’t have that special something that *suchandsuch author* has…”

    So books that affirm the principle of steady work are juuust what I need right now. Or always.

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