You'd be surprised what remains inspirational to an artist even after she casts away dirty things like graphic design as a career choice. This book isYou'd be surprised what remains inspirational to an artist even after she casts away dirty things like graphic design as a career choice. This book is an example of such a surprise.
(But beware: this book is only for the staunchest of nerds.)...more
Allow me to address the chronology: this was one of those books where Life happened somewhere in the middle of it. I'm not usually the sort to leave bAllow me to address the chronology: this was one of those books where Life happened somewhere in the middle of it. I'm not usually the sort to leave books in the middle but rather prefer to be a bit of a binge reader who sits down to one sitting or two of a book and absorbs it at a breakneck pace. But somewhere within the reading of this lovely tome, things like graduate exams and beginnings of semesters occurred and... well, there was a hiccup.
Fortunately -- and, I feel, such things about this book must be said -- Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters AND Seymour: An Introduction is designed to make such a feat easy. After all, this is technically a short story anthology and is bifurcated as such, despite the short stories weighing in at two and two alone; it is, if nothing else, accidentally designed to be easily dropped between the conclusion of one story and the start of another.
As such, my remembrance of "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters" is foggy at best, but I do distinctly remember appreciating another insight into the world of Salinger's Glass family. Whereas Franny and Zooey are an acute observation of the youngest of the clan, both "Raise High" and "Seymour" are observations upon its elder echelons. But -- and it is important to note -- whereas "Raise High" was definitely a character sketch, "Seymour" is definitely meta-fiction, the likes of which I would heavily recommend to any artist of any stripe to peruse. "Seymour" is certainly a memorial of sorts, yes, but the real heart of Buddy's interest is in that of the craft, the audience, and how his relationship with the craft and audience will best serve his much beloved subject. In that sense, as ever, Salinger's timing in my life is impeccable and needed. In that, of course, I tip a hat (and gratefully so).
A note: "Seymour: An Introduction" is not a relaxing read and should be expected as a re-read and analyzing type of venture. Just saying....more
Invariably intelligent and amazing, but I feel as if I need to read it again to truly absorb everything. Given that somebody loaned me this book, I waInvariably intelligent and amazing, but I feel as if I need to read it again to truly absorb everything. Given that somebody loaned me this book, I wasn't able to savor, write notes, and do my usual thing. I think this is a book you need to study, discuss with others, and make note after note. You don't just breeze through this puppy; if you try, your world suffers for it....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, whenEDIT, 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 think I took too intensely to be literal (it's Egg, which is undeniably physical), which I think just put me off the entire project.
Which is a pity, when you are a developing artist who is attempting to make creative pursuits your job, as this book is entirely about how you make the supposedly mysterious act of creating things good old-fashioned hard work.
So, my advice: read this book flexibly. The chapters are divided into the primary advice sections (in white) and the exercise sections (in halftone grey). Consider just reading the white pages and delving into the grey pages when you have the time and wherewithal to examine your creative practice. Sometimes it's a literal exercise to jostle you out of your comfort zone, while others are little stories that I think Tharp framed as advice and you can take from what is said and apply accordingly. But as in most cases of learning, the best thing you can do is reinterpret what Tharp is discussing into your own personal practice. It is when you reinvent advice that you truly internalize it, which will be infinitely more useful for you in the long run.
Anyway, to the bulk of helpfulness of this book: it is fairly good at diagnosing how to tap into creativity and make it into something you engage with on a regular basis. The chapter subjects delve into each fragment of a successful creative life: the intimidation of simply beginning, the importance of ritual, recognizing your creative origins (and, therefore, where you constantly go back to aesthetically), memory exercises, organization, troubleshooting large projects with small brainstorms, how to troubleshoot through small accidents in projects, how identifying central themes in projects can help anchor them, the importance of skill, identifying the differences between creative ruts and creative grooves, learning from failure, and maintaining a creative life over the long run. Some of these sections seem pretty common sense, while others might seem slightly revelatory; your instinct would most likely be correct. But Tharp makes a point of not discounting what may seem like common sense within the process of creating, which helps to demystify the process. Making things isn't the big obfuscation our culture seems to make it, and The Creative Habit helps to slay this myth and with good cheer.
Anyway, I'll probably make a point to reread this title every few years, since I have it on hand now, along with making it an idle reference book. Maybe I'll try to collect a new review every time.
Original review, 2010: The status updates kind of speak for themselves: I hate the fact that I love this book. I hate that I love it, actually, much like I hate it when a professor whose snotty tone I despise has good things to say. It's abhorrent, really, admitting that the condescending tone has an actual point.
But, it does. Okay, I admit that Tharp has good reason to be holier-than-thou, given the fact that she's directed one of the great dancing geniuses around the stage and has a MacArthur Fellowship to boast for her efforts. She's prolific, energetic, and -- yes -- has a creative habit. But should you need to read this for some advice (and many of the floundering blossoming artsy set probably do), please be forewarned: she's talking to dancers. I mean, she tries to talk to other artists, but she really is talking to dancers. Some of the exercises she gives you are things that will only work with dancing, honest to God. I mean, the advice in the main chapters is good, but... well, it might take you some creativity to adapt her advice to your studio habit.
But then again, Tharp would probably say that's what you were supposed to do in the first place. ...more