The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

I have craved a creative life since I started my first journal.  And, as artistic skills didn’t come naturally, I concluded that I wasn’t creative.  Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life dispels a lot of the mystery around the creative/artistic life and essentially reduces it to a lot of hard work.

The premise of the book is: “Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits (TT)”.  Tharp is a choreographer who has achieved a lot in her career.  She conceived of and choreographed the musical Movin’ Out as well as several other ballets and dances.  Even though her creative outlet is choreography, her insights and techniques are applicable to many creative disciplines.

Tharp says “in order to be creative, you have to know how to be creative…[and] there is a process that generates creativity” (pg 9).  That process can be leant and includes identifying and practicing rituals that get/keep you moving, how to ‘scratch’ for ideas, eliminating distractions, generating the ‘spine’ of a concept, and cultivating and improving essential technical skills.

I count a book successful if one concept changes how I think about a subject.  Read this book with notepaper and a highlighter.  Tharp’s autobiographical accounts are fascinating and inspiring and her pursuit of mastery has altered my perspective.  A few things that I have incorporated into my pursuit of creativity are carrying a camera to record things that inspire and compiling ideas/clippings/photos into a resource box.  These are just a few things that I got from the book – there are several others.  The Creative Habit is worth the time investment.  The exercises and commentary are accessible tools to help any one cultivate creativity.

Read this book with paper and highlighter.  It is insightful and inspiring…


Additional notes:

Although there is much to be gained by reading the book, there are several exercises that are surprisingly insightful and helpful and working through them is worthwhile.  Answering the questions in the Creative Autobiography helped me consider my motivations and values with respect to my pursuit of distinctive pottery.  Many other exercises were equally valuable and certainly enhanced the impact that this book made on me.

The creative habit is developing rituals to prepare to work, overcome fear, and remove distractions.  Hard work practiced over a lifetime can lead to mastery.



“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.” Pg 7

“A good idea is one that turns you on rather than shuts you off.  It keeps generating more ideas and they improve on one another.  A bad idea closes doors instead of opening them.  It is confining and restrictive.” Pg 96

“A perfect archive also give you more material to call on, to use as a spark for invention.” Pg 83

“I believe that every work of art needs a spine –an underlying theme, a motive, for coming into existence.” Pg 144

“Skill gives you the wherewithal to execute whatever occurs to you.” Pg 163

“Creativity is more about taking the facts, fictions, and feelings we store way and finding new ways to connect them.” Pg 64