I have never read a book about creativity by a non-writer, so renowned dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit was a real revelation to me. So refreshing to hear from someone who deals in something other than words - an artist in her 60s who has choreographed over 150 dances - and to see so clearly how I can learn from her in terms of setting myself up to be creative on a daily basis, something I sorely need. It has been years since I was last in that kind of routine - not since my MA in Creative Writing. I just haven't managed, as a writer of short and very short stories, to set myself up properly, and as a result I feel highly unproductive, uncreative, dissatisfied.
Something Julia said last week on her blog about her NaNoWriMo experience struck a chord: " I am calmer, more purposeful. This feels like a job now. I go to work and actually manufacture something." This is the feeling I want, the feeling that this is my job, that I am making something.
Twyla (if I may be so bold as to call her that) spoke to me from the very first page. She is talking about the blank page, the white canvas, the empty dance studio:
"Some people find this moment - the moment before creativity begins - so painful that they simply cannot deal with it. They get up and walk away from the computer, the canvas, the keyboard; they take a nap or go shopping or fix lunch or do chores around the house. They procrastinate. In its most extreme form, this terror totally paralyses people.
The blank space can be humbling. But I've faced it my whole professional life. It's my job. It's also my calling. Bottom line: Filling the empty space constitutes my identity."
Yes. I hear that. All of it. When I read the above I thought, This person can teach me something. And I was right. With chapters entitled "Rituals of Preparation", "Your Creative DNA", "Before You Can Think Out of the Box, You Have to Start with A Box", and "Ruts and Grooves", I started learning, in just one day's reading, a whole host of new ways to set up the Creative Habit.
I especially love starting a new box for each new project and filling it with the things that inspire, so I have begun a box (an old shoe box) for my new fiction-writer-in-residence position at the University's Science Faculty and have in it the program from last week's showing of five films made by the Faculty interviewing mathematicians. Inspirational.
My first box!
Now that I have my box I feel like something will come of this, that it is in some way "official" in my head, regardless of the outside world. And I love the idea of being able to rummage through the box in search of new inspiring material. What a great idea!
There is a great deal more wisdom in here, never passed on in a preachy or insistent tone, but gently yet firmly. This is someone who knows what she does, how she does it best and why. An ideal present for anyone who wants to do anything with a passion. I am off to read it again. And again. So no, you can't borrow my copy. Get your own!