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The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

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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 The Creative Habit, Tharp takes the lessons she has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career and shares them with you, whatever creative impulses you follow -- whether you are a painter, composer, writer, director, choreographer, or, for that matter, a businessperson working on a deal, a chef developing a new dish, a mother wanting her child to see the world anew.

When Tharp is at a creative dead end, she relies on a lifetime of exercises to help her get out of the rut, and The Creative Habit contains more than thirty of them to ease the fears of anyone facing a blank beginning and to open the mind to new possibilities.

Tharp's exercises are practical and immediately doable -- for the novice or expert. In "Where's Your Pencil?" she reminds us to observe the world -- and get it down on paper. In "Coins and Chaos," she provides the simplest of mental games 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 how to clean your cluttered mind overnight.

To Tharp, sustained creativity begins with rituals, self-knowledge, harnessing your memories, and organizing your materials (so no insight is ever lost). Along the way she leads you by the hand through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work, and getting out of ruts into productive grooves. In her creative realm, optimism rules. An empty room, a bare desk, a blank canvas can be energizing, not demoralizing. And in this inventive, encouraging book, Twyla Tharp shows us how to take a deep breath and begin!

247 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2003

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About the author

Twyla Tharp

20 books217 followers
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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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,266 reviews
Profile Image for Indigo Editing/Ink-Filled Page.
28 reviews13 followers
October 10, 2008
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 It and Use It For Life, talks about the importance of ritual in beginning her day. She says, "I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 a.m., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual."

Don't get me wrong: I am not saying we editors and writers need to get up at the crack of dawn to get the most out of our day. The point is in the ritual itself: one act that signals in our minds that the working day, whether it be creative or professional, has begun. For me, this means rolling out of bed in the morning, walking into the kitchen and making a pot of coffee. The moment I hear the dripping hiss of the coffeemaker waking up, a switch turns on inside my brain that tells me it's time to get to work. By the time I take my first sip, I am already sitting at my desk, planning out my projects for the day.

Tharp says, "Turning something into a ritual eliminates the question, Why am I doing this? By the time I give the taxi driver directions, it's too late to wonder why I'm going to the gym and not snoozing under the warm covers of my bed...The ritual erases the question of whether or not I like it. It's also a friendly reminder that I'm doing the right thing. (I've done it before. It was good. I'll do it again.)"

So if you're like me and need a little something extra to get you going, try establishing a ritual that makes your space feel good, and most importantly, makes you want to get to work, whether it be on the story you can't bring yourself to start or the editing project gathering dust on your desk. As Tharp says, "The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn't scare you, doesn't shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it. To get the creative habit, you need a working habit that's habit-forming."

So pick your ritual, get to work, and, like me, you may be surprised at how much more productive you can actually be.

Originally posted on Seeing Indigo.
Profile Image for Gretchen Rubin.
Author 30 books98.5k followers
February 25, 2020
I love this book. Very practical and concrete about her own creative practices.
Profile Image for Keleigh.
90 reviews52 followers
July 7, 2008
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 works out. But the habit is not the working out -- it's getting in the cab each morning to go to the gym. Once she's in the car, she's already "completed" the habit. I used to employ this when I was running regularly. As long as I made a habit of driving to the park, I'd end up running, even if it was only a mile. But the habit was in place, and that felt like the most important thing.

All in all, a worthwhile and motivational read, especially for us "flighty" artist types determined to get over the creative dips -- or, as Tharp puts it, through the "ruts."
Profile Image for Kira.
41 reviews
August 26, 2008
I was expecting this book to be a lot better than it actually was, and I feel that the idea was good, it was just presented in a way that I didn't find at all engaging. I felt that Tharp's ideas were kind of shoved down my throat in a very demeaning way, and I didn't like the way she treated the reader. I read about multitasking while reading the book on the cross trainer at the gym; the part when she says how much she hates seeing people reading while working out. That statement was just one of many to turn me away from the book. Another was when she "shamed" readers if they haven't gone to see a dance production before.
Overall, I felt that wagging her finger at things that people do in everyday life wasn't really the appropiate way to get people to follow her; not only did it make me feel like saying "What do you know?", it also made me feel like I was being treated like a 4 year old.
Profile Image for Pat.
263 reviews5 followers
April 20, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Kony.
403 reviews243 followers
February 6, 2017
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; it offers some very high-level strategies for staying creative and productive, but it's up to readers to translate these into any useful action steps.
Profile Image for Paula Cappa.
Author 14 books486 followers
August 31, 2015
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 memory" was eye opening for me. Do you need to face your fears? Twyla has got something to say about that. How do you become lucky? This book is full of answers.
Profile Image for A .
273 reviews3 followers
December 10, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Chasity.
76 reviews15 followers
November 12, 2018
DNF. While I agreed with some of the concepts - such as the idea that what people perceive as talent is actually hard work - the writing was just too pretentious for me to continue to take it seriously. At several points, I had to question of the writer was actually joking or if she was really just that tone deaf to how she comes across. Her privilege absolutely leaps off the page at every turn and eventually it was just too much for me.

Examples: she says that never having seen the ballet is the same as never having read a novel and if that's the case with you then you should be ashamed. Without any apparent regard from the many walks of life from which people come where there might be financial or geographical barriers to accessing such performances. Or just a general lack of exposure for certain groups of people. Privilege.

Another example of a time that I was turned off: she discusses the belief of a writer friend about how cleaning helps him clear away writer's block and then goes on to mock his beliefs about why it works for him and basically say it's a bunch of mumbo jumbo. I find this to be questionable friend behavior.

Some of the activities she suggested seemed possibly helpful but the actual narrative parts of the book where she expresses her opinions and talks about her life are, frankly, insufferable. I gave it two stars, rather than one, because I believe that some of the exercises she describes may actually be helpful to some people for tapping into their creativity. It adds some value despite the rest of the book.
Profile Image for Kaiti Yoo.
45 reviews1,416 followers
January 15, 2022
decided to put on hold for now. definitely helped me with making my social media approach much more disciplined, rather than spurts of inspiration. creativity is a habit, you just have to do it when you do and don't feel like it, and it'll become a system.
Profile Image for Allison.
78 reviews11 followers
April 27, 2014
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 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.
Profile Image for Matt Burgess.
46 reviews11 followers
May 5, 2010
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 and therefore found the majority of each chapter to be boring and unneccessary. However, she should be credited with successfully mixing content about a methodical process with interesting narrative. Although I prefer different, readers may find her interspersed examples refreshing especially those that enjoy the inner workings of broadway or fans of the Movin' Out musical.
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 6 books59.7k followers
February 14, 2014
A lovely (and rather stern, in parts) look at the habits that are essential to the creative life. Does that sound boring? It's anything but. Great for those seeking knowledge, inspiration, or a good kick in the pants.
Profile Image for JayeL.
1,791 reviews
March 19, 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 around for a flash from God.

I took the first test and had a hard time with some of the questions, but found that I got into it as I went on. I also gained some insight and was able to go back and fill in other answers I had skipped.

Not being a student, I don't sit with my books at a table and read and write notes or take tests. I like the tests and think they are useful, but the tests came up periodically, usually at times when I didn’t have a writing implement or the time to devote to the test. This was one of the reasons I got stalled.
Eventually, I just started to read the book, not do the tests and underline words and phrases that spoke to me. That was a much better plan and I got a lot out of it. I would recommend it even if you are just trying to improve your creative problem solving skills.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 1 book166 followers
March 22, 2021
Dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp is a fascinating person, and she provides a treasure trove of inspiration in this volume. With a no-nonsense writing style, she shares genuinely useful tips and tricks for anyone trying to fuel their creative life. Included are little stories about her own routine (taking a cab to the gym first thing every morning to work out), examples of how she solved creative problems (a surprising story about creating the dance Push Comes to Shove to showcase Mikhail Baryshnikov) and exercises she uses herself to jump-start inspiration.

Here’s just a sample of the many words of wisdom I found helpful:

“You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun--paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into a dance.”

“By making the start of the sequence automatic, they replace doubt and fear with comfort and routine.”

“No matter how limited your resources, they’re enough to get you started.”

And this one, which may be my favorite:
“You do not know what is and is not possible and therefore everything is possible.”
Profile Image for Mystie Winckler.
Author 7 books438 followers
July 22, 2022
One take away from this book I made was settling on a start-up habit to my writing time. I’ve known that having a starting ritual is a time-honored and time-tested trick for writers, but I’ve never figured out a practice that worked for me. Tharp didn’t just share hers and others’ rituals, she dug into the principle behind the choice of routine and it clicked with me. I was able to land on my pre-writing warm up: Go into the office with my set-up and open up to full screen the draft I’m working on, chug 8-12 ounces of water, do 10 squats with a 20-pound kettlebell, sit down and write for 10-20 minutes without screen-switching. All of these practices are physical prep that clear my head and help me get grounded and focused. It’s not woo-woo; it’s just smart.

As a reward, I can select the words I wrote during my writing sprint and note my word count. I’m always surprised by it!
Profile Image for Joshua Guest.
297 reviews64 followers
December 7, 2020
Best book I have read on creativity since Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Would recommend to anyone who wants to be more creative or needs help finding the discipline to give expression to their creative impulses. It helps to strike the balance between the chaos that is often associated with artistry and the order that too often gets dismissed as something only for the corporate, the religious and the non-artistic types.
Profile Image for Katherine Cowley.
Author 6 books198 followers
October 6, 2014
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 lot of your own inspiration. Tharp recommends always carrying a pencil with you (for the purposes of my video blog this year, I always carry a video camera). I went to the airport a few weeks ago and thought, “it would be cool to have another plane shot.” But it still took close to a dozen shots for me to find one that spoke to me in a compelling way. Yet it was through knowing that if I kept trying and working on it that I managed to capture it.

The idea of “creative habit” resonates with me. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with Romantic (as in of Romanticism) notions of the muse, and the idea that you’re either born creative or you’re not.

Working every day on this blog—having to come up with an interesting or compelling shot even when I’m sick, distracted, or would rather be doing other things—is the best thing I could have done for my creativity this year. I’m a better filmmaker, better at finding that angle, better at holding my hand steady, better at considering lighting and composition. Perhaps more importantly, I’m a better observer of the world—a skill that translates over to all the other creative areas of my life. Perhaps if I wasn’t looking for a shot I would’ve still noticed how cool it looked when some boys were shooting hoops. And perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed. But even if I had noticed, I would have thought, “that’s interesting” and forgotten about it 10 minutes later.

Time, efforts, and the daily process are a huge part of being successful, both in life and in art. Whether you’re writing 1500 words a day for your NaNoWriMo novel, filling pages in your sketchbook, writing and posting an original sonnet every day for a year (as my friend Gideon Burton did in his project Open Source Sonnets), you’re doing something worthwhile.

The Creative Habit reconfirmed some of the creative practices I’m already using, but it also gave me a lot of ideas that will help me improve my projects, from this daily video blog to my writing. One quote that really struck me was Tharp’s paraphrase of an aphorism which I had never before heard: “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” (page 110). This reminds me of another quote I was struck by recently; Thoreau wrote, “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”

I didn’t agree with everything Tharp wrote (for example, the idea that your creative DNA should lead you to focus on only one art form, or the bit of sacrifice-everything-for-your-art vibe that comes out in the conclusion). Yet having read this book, I feel more inspired to make a difference in the world, one creative act at a time.

(Note: this review was cross-posted from an entry on my video blog, Days of Film.)
Profile Image for Marcy.
617 reviews36 followers
May 2, 2010
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, and that talent, in addition to his hard work, was the reason Mozart became so famous. Twyla talks a lot about routines that lead to ideas. Observation, reflection, carrying a pencil to sketch and write, are all ways to help professionals generate ideas for creativity.

Although Twyla is known as one of the best choreographers in the world, her writing is also exquisite! Here are Twyla's planning once one has an idea for a project:

"A plan is like the scaffolding around a building. When you're putting up the exterior shell, the scaffolding is vital. But once the shell is in place and you start work on the interior, the scaffolding disappears. That's how I think of planning. It has to be sufficiently thoughtful and solid to get the work up and standing straight, but it cannot take over as you toil away on the interior guts of a piece. Transforming your ideas rarely goes according to plan.
This, to me, is the most interesting paradox of creativity; In order to be habitually creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative, but good planning alone won't make your efforts successful; it's only after you let go of your plans that you can breathe life into your efforts."

Every page I read was filled with great advice about dedication, commitment, flexibility, and creativity. Twyla's comments about creativity I personally hold close to my heart.
Profile Image for Sara Dahaabović .
244 reviews92 followers
November 15, 2020
This is the third time I listen to a book using the Wamda app. I guess the whole point of the book is that being creative is something you can train yourself to cultivate with the right tools. Of those tools that were mentioned in the book:

1- Finding your creative "spot" or a location where you actually can get motivated and creative. Over the years I realized that my creative spot is between books and in the library where everyone around me is actively reading and studying!

2-Having some kind of special rituals whether that's waking up early or going to the gym. The point of finding these rituals is that once you do them you prepare yourself mentally that you are about to do "your creative work". During the past semester we had a very nice professor called Shiang, she wouldn't start any lecture until we all had 3 deep breathes (I think this is her own ritual to prepare herself that she is about to give a lecture), which I honestly think was super cute and effective!

3- BE YOU! Everyone is creative in their own way!

4-Training your memory, I honestly didn't get why it's important to become creative, but I liked this part because it mentioned that humans usually remember more that what they think they're capable of and that all we need to do is train our brains.

5- Be flexible, things don't always go the way we plan them to. Always have plan B.

6- The importance of experience, in order to apply your creative ideas you need to have certain set of expertise, which you will only obtain from training over and over again!

7- You will fail! You have to acknowledge and own it when it happens and then find what caused it and how can you fix it.

Jan, 17, 2020.
Profile Image for Anirudh Ramanathan.
90 reviews11 followers
December 16, 2018
This book gave me a lot of new insight into the creative processes employed by artists - some of which seems definitely worth emulating. Contrary to what I believed, successful artists seem to be ones that impose some order prior to open the stage up to creative freedom. There is routine, there are deadlines, there is regularly inspiration drawn from prior work to kickstart creative processes, and effort to get into a “groove”, and to exit a rut. The exercises, especially the question “what is the first creative activity you remember in your life” came back again and again and prompted some serious thinking.

Perhaps the lesson the book taught me that I’m most likely to remember is that generosity is luck in reverse. The notion of “pay it forward” and “what goes around comes back around” makes sense again, even in a chaotic world filled with many random possibilities just as a subjective notion - generosity makes one more attuned to recognizing received generosity - perfectly rational explanation without the need to rely on karma or deeper spiritual notions to explain it.

Overall, very enjoyable and worth a read - even if there are lots of dance metaphors, the author has done a great job of translating it into generally accessible notions that can be learned from and experimented with.
Profile Image for Dave Emmett.
131 reviews29 followers
December 31, 2010
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 are better than others at using metaphors. Her suggestion, of course, is that having a high metaphor quotient is connected to creativity. Probably true.

I read through the exercises in the book really quickly, but I might go back over them more thoroughly and try a few out. I love the point she makes with the exercises that creativity isn't just something you get out of bed and do, it's something that you need to work at. Anyone can be creative, they just need to prepare themselves to being creative, to open themselves up the idea that they can be creative, and to accept that they might make some mistakes along the way.
Profile Image for Christina Stind.
490 reviews54 followers
September 8, 2017
'There's a paradox in the notion that creativity should be a habit. We think of creativity as a way of keeping everything fresh and new, while habit implies routine and repetition. That paradox intrigues me because it occupies the place where creativity and skill rub up against each other.' (p. 9)

As a professional choreographer for many, many years, Twyla Tharp's very existence - and well-being - is dependent on her being creative. If her creative juices run dry, she's out of a job. This means she has a lot of experience with keeping the creative workflow going and with getting out of the inevitable rut.
Her way of work is dependent on rutines and habits and hard work. As a dancer, she works with her body in a studio and she films the entire three hours of rehearsal - even though she knows that she might only get something from the last 10 minutes - because she knows that the rest is necessary to find that small something that she can use to build on and work from.
She is also a strong advocate for constant practice and constant work. You need to keep your instrument of choice sharp and at the ready so when inspiration hits, you are ready to catch it and run with it.
I think she is mostly right about her attitude towards working creatively for the most parts of the book - the only thing is, that as a person with a full-time job, kids, a family, pets ... it can difficult to establish a creative rutine because your time is limited and she views the world from a person whose work is to be creative whereas I need to find the time for creativity in my spare time.
The following quote still really hit home:
'No matter how limited your resources, they're enough to get you started. Time, for example, is our most limited resource, but it is not the enemy of creativity that we think it is. The ticking clock is our friend if it gets us moving with urgency and passion. Give me a writer who thinks he has all the time in the world and I'll show you a writer who never delivers.' (p. 126) and I think that I'm also guilty of making excuses of lack of time ... still, my time is definitely extremely limited.
Twyla Tharp is very interesting and even though I didn't know her or her work outside this book, it was interesting to hear about her process and how she focuses her days to ensure to the best of her abilities that she has the room to keep developing her creativity.
Profile Image for Philippe.
634 reviews525 followers
July 18, 2019
This is a book I keep returning to. A very practical and level-headed, yet profound articulation of the 'mind-and bodyset' that allows people to create something out of nothing. One of the many revealing elements in the book is the distinction between 'zoe' and 'bios' as basic artistic orientations:

Zoe and bios both mean life in Greek, but they are not synonymous. Zoe, wrote Kerenyi, refers to 'life in general, without characterization.' Bios characterizes a specific life, the outlines that distinguish one living thing from another.

Zoe is like seeing Earth from space. You get the sense of life on the rotating globe, but without a sense of the individual lives being lived on the planet. Bios involves swooping down from space from the perch of a high-powered spy satellite, closing in on the scene, and seeing the details. Bios distinguishes between one life and another. Zoe refers to the aggregate.

Bios accommodates the notion of death, that each life has a beginning, middle, and end, that each life contains a story. Zoe, wrote Kerenyi, “does not admit of the experience of its own destruction: it is experienced without end, as infinite life.” The difference between zoe and bios is like the difference between sacred and profane. Sacred art is zoe-driven; profane art stems from bios.

Balanchine was the essence of zoe (...) beautiful plotless structures (...) Their content is the essence of life, not the details of living (...) Balanchine’s gestures and steps pluck chords in us that we cannot easily name. Yet they resonate. They seem familiar. That’s the genius of Balanchine.

Robbins, on the other hand, was pure bios—and brilliant at it. When he created a dance, he was always accumulating details about the roles—from what the characters would wear to whom they were sleeping with—and out of these details of life he would construct an engaging narrative. As a man of bios, a master of details, he could tell a story that had, as a subtext, what Balanchine made a text of—namely, life.

I know that my best work comes out of my creative DNA that seeks to reconcile the competing forces of zoe and bios ...
Profile Image for Yuliya Skripnik.
19 reviews9 followers
September 29, 2016
Отличная книга об алхимии творчества — о том, как рождается вдохновение, как оттачивать мастерство и выбираться из ям, справляться с сомнениями и придумывать гениальные идеи. Творчество удел не только «художественных» натур. Оно доступно бизнесменам, ищущим новые способы увеличения продаж; инженерам, решающим техническую проблему; родителям, желающим, чтобы их дети увидели мир под разными углами зрения.

«Когда творчество входит в привычку, когда вы умеете управлять своим временем, ресурсами, ожиданиями и требованиями других, когда приходит понимание важности объективной оценки, последовательности и сохранения чистоты идеи, вы оказываетесь на пути к достижению наивысшей цели любого творческого человека — к обретению звания мастера, профессионала».

Каждый человек может пропустить через себя сюжеты обычной жизни и создать нечто удивительное. Но если не тратить времени и усилий на развитие своих талантов, на подготовку, на отработку базовых умений, нагрянувшее вдохновение может лишь оглушить.

«Творческое горение полезно только для тех, кто знает, что с ним делать».

Книга будет интересна всем, кому актуально знать, как быть готовым к удаче, продуктивно использовать вдохновение, и даже больше — о том, как от них не зависеть, и при этом развить таланты и стать мастером.

Упражнения на метафоричный интеллект — шикарны. И про новое имя — интересная идея. А ещё техника 20 вопросов перед началом любого проекта — очень понравилось.

Скоро выйдет на русском языке в МИФе.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Mario Tomic.
159 reviews319 followers
October 29, 2015
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 examples that can help you tap into your individual creativity and achieve your goals. I found the material a bit hard to digest but I think I got the gist of it. It will definitely help me with my creative output. To help you internalize the material I recommend you to read a few book summaries after you've finished to boo. There's so many lessons so reading a summary will help you connect the dots. Generally if you're an artist and if you ever wondered what makes someone creative, or how to face that empty page and create something where nothing existed before this is the book for you.
Profile Image for jenn.
488 reviews21 followers
November 2, 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 been written by a recognized MacArthur Genius.
Profile Image for Samie Kira.
9 reviews11 followers
February 10, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
590 reviews10.5k followers
July 3, 2022
This is my second read of this book. I’d forgotten a lot. I got a lot out of it as a creative process text. Tharp helps to make creativity a practice and not a fluke. The book is a little disjointed and lacking any real celebration or acknowledgment of creatives who aren’t white (and male…aside from Tharp) which sucks. Mostly because it shows that Tharp doesn’t truly value the genius and/or process of people outside white and maleness. Except when it comes to white women dancers.
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