How to build the creative habit
“In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative”
Twyla Tharp is a choreographer who began her career in 1965 and is thoroughly respected in her field. Her book ‘The creative habit’ is a masterclass on what she has learnt in her time creating dance routines that can extend in any area of life. These are 5 valuable insights I got from her book:
1. The value of ritual – Twyla notes she gets up a 5.30am each morning, hails a cab (she lives in manhattan) and goes to the gym for two hours. She says the ritual isn’t the workout, it is the cab. Having the habit of the cab ride ensures the next stage occurs.
Twyla notes that by turning something into a ritual, it eliminates the question; ‘why am I doing this? You are just following a set of actions that lead to a predictable outcome.
Being a creative, Twyla observes a lot of other successful creative people she knows have similar preparation rituals linked to the settings in which they choose to start their day; A writer friend carries a coffee mug to the outside in her garden and starts writing. A painter she knows can’t paint until she has loud music playing to get her into the right state to paint.
2. Stare down your fears – Twyla writes that when she walks into the white room she is alone, alone with all her mental insecurities that threaten to prevent her going into a creative flow. To combat this she goes through a staring down routine, like a boxer would stare his opponent right in the eye as a defiant show of no fear.
She will bring her fears out into the open and provide a counter example of why that fear is a non entity. People will laugh at me – “Not the people I respect, they haven’t done up till now and aren’t going to start now” Someone has done it before – “It’s all been done before, nothing is entirely original”
3. If you want to get good, get busy copying – In today’s world we are instructed to find our own voice, to be original. Yet skill is engrained through action and trying to be original can stunt that growth.
World renowned photographer Chas Jarvis touches on this point also when he states to focus on being different rather than original. Twyla writes when she first started she was obsessed with studying every great dancer and copying their moves. Eventually she found that her choreography became her own style, unique to her own way of looking at dancing.
4. There is such thing as over planning- Twyla tells a great story about the photographer Richard Avedon who she considers the best of anyone she knows at planning and preparation. However as soon as the shoot begins, all planning ends and instinct and innate creativity takes over.
She likens planning to scaffolding around a building. When the exterior shell is going up, the scaffolding is vital. Yet when you start work on the actual interior, the scaffolding disappears.
“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 is only after you let go of your plans that you can breathe life into your efforts”.
5. You are building skill-sets- Skill is a calibration between what you can see in your mind and how closely that matches to what you can produce in real life. Twyla points to a quote in Miyamoto Musashi ‘Book of Five Rings’ where “warriors know they need to enlarge their arsenal of skills in order to avoid becoming ppredictable to their adversaries’.
This is a constant process where you never stop learning. Twyla observes that the best writers are typically well-read people. They are constantly nourishing their knowledge of words, grammer and language as a whole to get better.
Twyla Tharp has creates a fantastic book on the commitment necessary in order to be creative and skilled in any endeavour you choose. You’ll do good to devour her words and gain pointers on how you can proceed to being more creative…It starts in the preparation.
Download How to build the creative habit – 28/10/2013