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The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

I first heard about this book about five years ago, when my friend Linda Urban told me about it, and about how Tharp's idea of the "spine" of each work really spoke to her. You can read Linda's thoughtful post about the meaning of this idea here. Both online and in conversation, Linda sang the praises of the book. Yet somehow, it didn't occur to me to read it. Until this month. (It was brought up again in a conversation I was having online with some other writers.)

Perhaps I wasn't "ready" for the information, or perhaps I was just a dolt who didn't think to look for the book, either because I thought it had something to do with dance (it doesn't, and Linda had told me that) or that I wasn't the sort of "creative person" to benefit from it. (Yeah, I have my own issues, just as all writers do, and there are times I feel like a complete hack while friends of mine are the true "artistes" among us. I'm working on it. But I digress.)

The thing about Tharp's book is that it is for ALL creative personalities, regardless of chosen means of expression. It's for choreographers and dancers, but it's for writers and poets and fine artists and pop artists and jewelry designers and songwriters and actors and muralists and fashion designers/costumers and, well, anyone who works in the creative arts, whether on a full-time or part-time basis.

Moreover, Tharp essentially believes that ALL people can learn to be creative, even if they don't consider themselves so, which is something I happen to agree with. The creative spark is inside every human being, if they have the time and the means and the encouragement to develop it. Of course, there are those who have had that spark nearly snuffed out by circumstances outside their control - if you're focused on survival, for instance, it's hard to develop artistic creativity, although doubtless you're using your creativity to stay alive.

Then there are those people who had the misfortune to be place among family or teachers who told them that they were no good at things - maybe just one thing, like singing or dancing or drawing, or maybe ALL the things. That's happened to more people than not, I think. I used to think I couldn't dance. Like, at all. I believed that until I went to college, in fact, and figured out that it wasn't true, but years of my mother laughing at my dance efforts at home, pointing out the clumsy bits and calling me "Grace" (sarcastically) had convinced me I couldn't do it. Not that I'll win any awards, mind, or that I could have been the next Twyla Tharp, but hey, I can dance, at least a bit. I also believed I couldn't draw. I don't recall why I thought that-- I think it may have been me comparing my efforts to someone else's in art class and deciding I was awful. But it turns out that's not the case, either, and that all I needed was a lot of practice. I'd say that I digress here, but these examples are probably familiar to you, whether they overlap specific areas in your own life or not.

The point being that creative work is work, and that it requires practice in order to develop it. It requires other things, too, like stretching or challenging yourself, and coming up with new ideas or themes to explore. And Twyla Tharp's book is all about that--how to come up with ideas, develop ideas, explore new possibilities, find your own strengths, identify your weaknesses, etc.

This review is based on me getting 2/3 of the way through the copy I got from my local library. And yes, I usually read the entire book before posting, but truthfully, even if the last 1/3 of the book were blank, this book would deserve your time and attention. Meanwhile, I ordered my own copy of the book from Barnes & Noble, and it should arrive soon. I find I want to revisit the book from the start, and mark it up to my heart's content, and actually do the many exercises that are interspersed within it. If you check it out (in the library or otherwise), I rather suspect that you, too, will find inspiration (and comfort) and at least want to try some of the exercises. If you do, I hope you'll let me know how it goes, and what you think of the book.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 23rd, 2014 09:12 pm (UTC)
That book sounds interesting. I've made a note of the title and hope to get hold of a copy.

Thank you!
Sep. 28th, 2014 12:54 am (UTC)
I hope your library has it!
Sep. 28th, 2014 06:42 pm (UTC)
They do! Yay! =)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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