17 April 2007

On Twyla Tharp's Creative Habit.

One of my great discoveries of the past few weeks has been Twyla Tharp's book –The Creative Habit. When my friend Anne McAllister first started blogging about the book, I thought it sounds interesting, but not for me. Then she blogged a bit more about ruts and grooves and I decided I had to read it. A groove is when everything is flowing, and a rut, unlike a writer's block is when your creative wheels are churning and you are not going forward. And it is a wonderful read -- full of ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

In case anyone doesn't know Tharp is one of the great American choreographers. She has been active in the field of dance since the 1960s and has won numerous awards.
Her book, The Creative Habit, details her approach to producing a creative work.

One of the book's great strengths is that it is not by a novelist and gives insight into how she goes about her life. She also does not hesitate to explain her failures, or her blocks.

As befits a dancer, she has a very disciplined approached to creativity. She extols the importance of rituals. For example, one of her rituals is catching a taxi cab. One of my rituals is before I begin the day's work, I put on the kettle and make myself a cup of tea. She extols the virtues of keeping a box for each project, and of reading archeologically –- going back and seeing a writer's influences, of looking at each project as part of a continuum, of scratching (in terms of a scratching a lottery card) around for idea. She also extols the importance of always carrying a pencil. I found the chapter on failure very interesting. It is through failure that success comes. And as a great believer in editing and revision, I was interested to see how she tackled it. She does not shy away from explaining how Movin' Out also became a disaster. She also explodes the myth that was perpetrated in Amadeus -– that Mozart did not have to work at his genius. Apparently by the age of twenty-eight, his hands were deformed from holding the quill pen. She makes the point that all the best dancers spend the longest time getting the basics right. mastering skills leads towards greater creativity.

If you are at all interested in creativity, or feel in the need to learn more about the work habits that can lead to creative success, read the book. I suspect I enjoyed this book as it emphasized that desire, determination, dedication and discipline play an important part in creativity, a concept that I firmly believe.