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The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,818 Ratings  ·  680 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
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 6th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2003)
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On Writing by Stephen KingLetters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria RilkeBird by Bird by Anne LamottBeing and Time by Martin HeideggerThe Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Best Books on Creative Life
14th out of 297 books — 485 voters
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Books on Creativity
7th out of 77 books — 77 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
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Ron
Jan 31, 2009 Ron rated it it was amazing
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.
Keleigh
Jul 07, 2008 Keleigh rated it liked it
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
Pat
Apr 20, 2009 Pat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
JayeL
Mar 19, 2012 JayeL rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: creativity, 2012
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
Allison
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
Cynthia
Feb 08, 2009 Cynthia rated it did not like it
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.
Paula Cappa
Aug 31, 2015 Paula Cappa rated it it was amazing
This is likely the best book on creativity you'll read this year. I'm not a dancer (I'm a fiction author), but The Creative Habit addresses all artists and business minds too. This is more than just practical suggestions to stimulate your creative juices and not the same ol' you've read before. Generous with deep perspectives, philosophy, and real life insights. What do you do if you are in a rut with your project or story or music? How can you unleash the energy you need to move ahead? "Muscle ...more
Matt Burgess
May 05, 2010 Matt Burgess rated it it was ok
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
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Marcy
May 01, 2010 Marcy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dave Emmett
Dec 30, 2010 Dave Emmett rated it it was amazing
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
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Antoinette Perez
Oh, Twyla. Thank you. Big growth between my first full read of this book almost 10 years ago, and my second time through the book, which I finished yesterday. Reading her sections on preparation, "scratching," and failure were like visiting old friends. This time, I studied intently the early chapter on ritual -- because that's my focus in the new year. Also especially enjoyed the chapters on ruts and grooves ("different sides of the same coin"), experience and naivete, and passion and skill.

Th
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David
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.
Tom
Dec 27, 2008 Tom rated it liked it
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.
Amanda
Dec 10, 2013 Amanda rated it it was ok
Twyla is a bit of a hard-ass. She thinks people that don't wake at 5:30am and then work out for two hours are lazy. She's definitely of the "will-power is king" school of thought. I certainly didn't envy her her choices in life and did not respond to her manner of writing either.
Leigh Haber
Sep 04, 2009 Leigh Haber rated it really liked it
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
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Katherine Cowley
Oct 05, 2014 Katherine Cowley rated it it was amazing
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
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Rebecca
Jan 31, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it
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
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Patrick
Feb 01, 2009 Patrick rated it liked it
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: http://www.thepracticeofleadership.ne...
Mario Tomic
Oct 29, 2015 Mario Tomic rated it really liked it
In a nutshell what you'll learn in this book is how to form habits and routines that keep you creative. The author is Twyla Tharp, one of America’s greatest dance choreographers, with more than 130 dances produced by her own company. She defines creativity as a product of hard work and preparation. It's a process undertaken every day. To quote her "Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell." The book includes a lot of exercises and ex ...more
Samie Kira
Feb 10, 2009 Samie Kira rated it it was amazing
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.
jenn
Nov 02, 2014 jenn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiftyfiftyme, 2014
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
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ShaRose
Nov 11, 2008 ShaRose rated it it was amazing
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.
Thedoifter
Oct 01, 2009 Thedoifter rated it liked it
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.
Kony
May 07, 2016 Kony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a practical manual for developing creative habits. Rather, it's a thoughtful, mostly backward-looking essay that describes how Twyla Tharp stays on top of her creative game as a choreographer. This book would be most on-point for two specific categories of readers: (1) those who are professional choreographers like Twyla Tharp, and/or (2) those who are interested in reading about Twyla Tharp's career highlights. For the rest of us, the book reads more like a memoir than a how-to guide ...more
Jillian
Mar 11, 2014 Jillian rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Adriane Devries
Apr 18, 2014 Adriane Devries rated it really liked it
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
Alice
Apr 30, 2013 Alice rated it it was amazing
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
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Jaycruz Cruz
Mar 22, 2010 Jaycruz Cruz rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2010 Carolyn Haley rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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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.
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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.” 90 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.” 41 likes
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