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The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
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The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  6,132 ratings  ·  553 reviews

Creativity is not a gift from the gods, says Twyla Tharp, bestowed by some divine and mystical spark. It is the product of preparation and effort, and it's within reach of everyone who wants to achieve it. All it takes is the willingness to make creativity a habit, an integral part of your life: In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative. In Th
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 6th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2003)
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On Writing by Stephen KingBird by Bird by Anne LamottThe Artist's Way by Julia CameronWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergLetters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Best Books on Creative Life
7th out of 230 books — 311 voters
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Books on Creativity
6th out of 53 books — 44 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Indigo Editing/Ink-Filled Page
Being both an editor and a writer, one of the most difficult things for me is actually getting my day going. I confess that I am a notorious procrastinator, both in my creative and professional life. Part of this is habit, but the other part is not always having an anchor in my day that tells my brain it is time to get to work already, no more excuses, no more fear.

Luckily, I have found a way to make my time count. World-renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp, in her book, The Creative Habit: Learn
I wasn't an avid fan of Twyla Tharp the choreographer, but her suggestions for creative discipline were inventive and inspiring. She draws from her personal inventory of art knowledge, offering anecdotes and metaphors from literature, classical music, painting, film and dance. I was impressed with her interdisciplinary approach. One of the most valuable tidbits I got was the understanding of what actually makes a habit a habit: for instance, she says she goes to the gym every single morning and ...more
I find it inspiring to read about Twyla Tharp's daily rituals and creative habits. I suppose it belongs to the self improvement genre but it is written by a brilliant choreographer and dancer. I guess I like reading about the weird things people do to trick themselves into working fearlessly.
I started this book some time ago after I received it as a gift. I didn't get very far as it didn’t grab my attention and other books elbowed their way to the front of the line. I, finally, decided to get serious and really start reading it. One of the best things about it so far is that Twyla Tharp describes creativity as a habit. While that sounds much more boring that creativity being a flash of light from God, it is much more comforting for me. I can develop a habit; I can't really wait arou ...more
EDIT, 26 APRIL 2014: It is really funny reading this from the perspective of where I am as an artist now versus where I was as an artist in 2010, when I first read this book. (Which you can read below; it is a hoot, if not full of hubris.) Then, I was really frustrated because I took Tharp's advice literally. How ironic to critique a book on creativity when you are not creative enough to imagine the author's advice to work for your own pursuits, eh? There is one exercise in particular that I thi ...more
Best book I've ever read on what being creative actually means - not a book about "lateral thinking" or how to have ideas or some crap like that, but a book by someone who needs to be creative regularly to pay the bills, has done so in her career over decades, and shows you that creativity is about work and discipline, not magic or mysticism. Read this book.
Matt Burgess
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (2003), Twyla Tharp

One of America's greatest choreographers, Twyla Tharp, shares her insight into the creative process in her sophomore venture into authorship. The best part of The Creative Habit is at the end of each chapter where exercises are prescribed to the content of the corresponding chapter. In between you will find stories primarily from Twyla's experience with musicals and other artistic ventures.

I tend to prefer straight forward talk
Wonderful overview on Thyla's take on creativity. Probablu not worth purchasing, but worth a quick read in the bookstore cafe.

Reads easily with good style and structure. The post-chapter exercises reinforce and summarize.

Probably better suited to artists than professionals, but still unteresting.
Twyla Tharp holds the secrets to success... hard work is the main ingredient. Twyla talks mostly about the hard work she has put into her craft. She also relates information about other famous lives who she admires and were successful due to the amount of work they put into their craft. Twyla writes about Mozart, who everyone thought was born with pure genius. Twyla does not dispel that Mozart was born with talent, but he was worked very hard by his talented father from an extremely early age, a ...more
Kathy Cowley
If there is one book on Creativity that you should read, regardless of whether you’re a filmmaker, a writer, a calligrapher, a dancer, or simply a creative coin collector, it’s Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit.

While there may be elements of inspiration in art, Tharp argues that what’s more important is the habit of creativity. The habitual work makes it possible to recognize artistic inspiration, and be prepared with the skills to do something with it. Further, you end up finding and making a l
Jan 31, 2012 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who creates anything
Shelves: non-fiction
1. I need to re-read this. And read it in a shorter amount of time so I can absorb the ideas and not forget them between chapters. And maybe write them down.

2. So much of Tharp's descriptions of how she creates were already in my mind as nebulous things I know I do when creating, but she puts them in more concrete and believable terms that would make sense to anyone outside my head. I had many "Aha!" moments when reading this. See #1.

3. The format of the book is accessible - there are different
Sort of a "Getting Things Done" for artists. A lot of the thoughts here can be applied to non-artistic endeavors, however. In that light, there's a lot of 'common sense' stuff, but it is always nice to see it written down. The book is punctuated with anecdotes from Tharp's career, which was interesting to me, since I knew nothing about her, other than that she was a dancer.

A summary of the book is available here:
Samie Kira
One of the best books I've ever read. If you're struggling creatively, or even just with life, this book gives you all the tools and tips you'll need to get back on track. Things I've been doing that I felt were spontaneous actually have a name (at least in this book) and now I can actually track the tools used with my success and failures. It's one of those you can't put down, highlight and underline, and go back to again and again.
I just started but I love the pragmatic approach Ms. Tharp has to creativity. She demystifies her process and attempts to make creativity and innovation accessible.

I actually stopped reading the book because the style was very expository. Since I did not have the time to treat this like a workbook with exercises I gave up on it. It got dull. She really made her creative process mundane.
I started this in the summer (using the Oyster app) and read a chapter or chapter section every day or so. I was really surprised at how universally applicable most of the advice turned out to be. I didn't take advantage of the written exercises, so I'm thinking of picking up a hard copy and going through it again. I particularly appreciated the way she included things like slumps, ruts, mistakes, and even aging as part of the creative life.

This was kind of like if The Happiness Project had bee
This is a beautiful book. Kudos to all those who designed it and put up with Twyla Tharp who must have an ego the size of Manhattan. It reads in an "I'm great because...." sort of style.
Nov 11, 2008 ShaRose rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: creatives
Recommended to ShaRose by: just happened upon it at library
Unique perspecitve into the creative self through exciting, unusual exercises to practice from a dancer's POV. Easy reading and fun to follow.
I'm ambling through this one, not making a concerted effort to finish. It has a lot of good thoughts but her voice is a little obnoxious.
What a great book for dancers and creative types. I loved how Tharp weaved the personal in with her advice to readers. She inspired me to check out her choreography online after finishing this and she's so lovely. Some of my favorite quotes and bits are:

Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art.

Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box.

If it's true that who you are now and who you will be five years from now depends on what books you read and which people you meet, than you ne
Adriane Devries
In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp, award-winning Broadway choreographer with decades of experience to lend her the utmost authority, divulges her time-honed secrets to tapping that most elusive of muses, productive imagination. Whether one is a novelist, sculptor, corporate advertiser or autobody repair technician, we all can relate to the challenges and pitfalls of the creative process. Like a caffeinated fairy godmother arriving in a New York City taxi cab, Ms. Tharp holds nothing back and is ...more
Leigh Haber
This has been a rough few weeks in terms of staying focused and optimistic. Not sure why--perhaps it's the abrupt end of a short, rainy summer, and being unsure of what the fall will bring.

I turned to a book I've had on my shelf, that I discovered I'd bought at the Boulder Bookstore in Boulder, Co a few years ago (so the bookmark inside indicated) and never read, but now seemed so timely. Twyla Tharp, is, of course, one of the greatest dance choreographers of all time, one of the emblematic "thi
Loved this book. I picked it up because I am on a "creativity" book binge this year, but this book is not inspiring just because of the creative exercises Tharp includes. Instead, Tharp herself is the inspiration. Her passion for and dedication to her craft bleeds through every page. She is a master of her art because she has devoted her life to it, and her inner drive, disciplined work ethic and determination is more inspiring than any creative exercises.

The book does not teach a particular me
Jaycruz Cruz
Mar 22, 2010 Jaycruz Cruz rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone that has to be creative
I've always been intrigued to read this book since Merlin Mann championed it over a year ago on 43folders. I'm glad I finally got to it because this book is truly a gem. Unless you skim it passively, there's no way you won't get something out of this book. Tharp insightfully demystifies the creative process, showing that it's mostly a matter of discipline and hard work. She writes about the importance of rituals and routines, or how to prepare to create. To me, this is the key thing in the book ...more
Carolyn Haley
This book was recommended to me by several colleagues when I bemoaned my lack of creativity. I found it so helpful and stimulating that I wish to pass the word to everyone else!

Tharp frankly and clearly defines creativity and breaks it down into manageable chunks in terms of how to recognize it, use it, cultivate it, suppress it, revive it -- regardless of your walk in life. She frames the book with her own life as a dancer and choreographer, but the concepts are universal; and for each point, s
C. Wilson
Nov 29, 2014 C. Wilson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Almost anyone
Recommended to C. by: A genius
A long time friend asked my opinion of this book recently. I know of it, but could not recall ever having READ it. I quickly grabbed a pre-enjoyed copy online and when it arrived I started reading it BEFORE leaving my mail stop.

THIS IS A GREAT BOOK. (As a writer/author I do not throw around hyperbolic praise easily.) Nearly every page has my underlining, marginal notes, giant, cartoonish, exclamation marks, and further thoughts.

I wish I had written this book, and I am so glad Ms. Tharp did. Her'
Dave Emmett
I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected I would.

A few things I took away from it:
Every creative work has a 'spine', a metaphor or message that holds it together. Not exactly the theme, more like the trace of where the idea came from that kept the project going.

I liked her concept (maybe it isn't hers, but it's in the book) of a 'metaphor quotient', one's ability to use and understand metaphors, to explain the world using reference to memories and experiences. Everyone can do it, but some
Jun 02, 2010 Delaney rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone with the desire to be creative
Recommended to Delaney by: Amazon

With clear-cut justification and a sharp argument, Twyla Tharp explains how her experience in the dance and theater industry has provided her with the tools needed implement creativity into her everyday life. Tharp uses the example of Mozart to illustrate her main point: Creativity is a habit. She further explains that creativity is a product of preparation and effort and is not just a god-given gift that only some of us have. She uses Mozart to illustrate that being creative, implementing creat
This was a fun, inspirational read. It didn't make me rush to the blank page to write, but it did have some interesting ideas for artists of all kinds on how to be less fearful of starting, and more productive and consistent in practicing their art(s) of choice. Though her tone is conversational and pleasant to read, Tharp by no means coddles the reader. Her view of the artist's life is practical, grounded in good habits and the judicious use of play.

What interested me most about the book was ho
This is the kind of book that I wish I'd written myself, and I suppose that I could have, but I could never write it with as much authority, candor and insight as Twyla Tharp. The Creative Habit is part biography, part memoir, part boot camp and part manifesto. Throughout, Tharp's uncompromising and implacable personality comes through. I adore her and fear her at the same time; she is just the sort of generous and rigorous mentor that a creative person needs, however, she has no problem calling ...more
Kelly Ferguson
A nice boost if you're in-between projects. There should be at least one good takeaway from this book for anyone. Mine was considering if your work has "spine." The interdisciplinary approach makes her concepts apply to all the arts, although her inspirational stories of great artists (well, other than her own story) are just about all about men. Still, you gotta respect a woman who wakes up every morning at 5:30 and hits the gym for two hours.
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Twyla Tharp is an American dancer and choreographer. She has won Emmy and Tony awards, and currently works as a choreographer in New York City.
More about Twyla Tharp...
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“I read for growth, firmly believing that what you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” 63 likes
“Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature – all are lottery tickets for creativity. Scratch away at them and you’ll find out how big a prize you’ve won.” 30 likes
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