Saturday, May 7, 2011

Book review - The creative habit - Twyla Tharp

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Title: The creative habit - learn it and use it for life
Author: Twyla Tharp
Info: 243 p. - 2003
Finished: 6 May 2011
Acquired through:
Rating: 8/10

This is a very intriguing and inspiring book for anybody who is even remotely serious about their art.
Tharp is a succesful choreographer and uses examples out of her own life as well as those of other artists (in just about any field, so this is not a book about dance) to illustrate the importance of devotion and perseverance when it comes to living a creative life. Habits, discipline and simple hard work are the things she stresses again and again. This books  gives a no nonsense approach to art that really speaks to me.

The fact that Tharp is a choreographer and sometimes goes beyond what I would be willing to sacrifice for art's sake does not diminish the power of her message, which is like being spoken to by a very strict but wise teacher. Art comes with devotion and keeping up a practice. Depending on inspiration won't get you anywhere in the long run.

In between the chapters Tharp offers a series of interesting exercises to keep the creative juices flowing. Some of them are dance oriented, but that does not mean they are any less interesting. This book is one I will read and reread time and again to keep me focused and motivated.

If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge.

Solitude is an unavoidable part of creativity. Self-reliance is a happy by-product.

(Quoting Mark Twain)
"...the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read."

Some people resent the idea of luck. Accepting the role of chance in our lives suggests that our creations and triumphs are not entirely our own, and that in some way we're undeserving of our success. I say, Get over it. This is how the world works. In creative endeavors luck is a skill.

The more you are in the room working, experimenting and banging away at your objective, the more luck has a chance of biting you on the nose.

I used to bask in the notion that all my obstacles to creative efficiency would vanish if I only had exactly the right resources (...) But I've learned that the opposite is true: limits are secret blessings, and bounty can be a curse.

Time (...) is our most limited resourse, 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.

(Quoting an anonymous CEO)
"You only need  one good reason to commit to an idea, not four hundred. But if you have four hundred reasons to say yes and one reason to say no, the answer is probably no."

Be generous. I don't use that word lightly. Generosity is luck going in the opposite direction, away from you.

The one thing that creative souls around the world have in common is that they all have to practice to maintain their skills. Art is a vast democracy of habit.

In its purest form, inexperience erases fear. You do not know what is and is not possible and therefore everything is possible.

Without passion all the skill in the world won't lift you above craft. Without skill all the passion in the world will have you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.

When people who have demonstrated talent fizzle out or disappear after early creative success, it's not because their gifts, that famous "one percent inspiration", abandoned them; more likely they abandoned their gift through a failure of perspiration.

When you create beauty and wonder from the metaphorical stone that the builder refused, you have achieved mastery.