A Book Review: The Creative Habit

creative habit

Book: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Author: Twyla Tharp

Published: October 2003, Simon & Schuster.

Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

In this non-fiction, self-help book written with a fierceness that feels like a sharp breeze, the author, a successful New York City choreographer, Twyla Tharp, guides us in some of her best and most widely used exercises for the brain. She reminds us that to be able to gain traction in mental endeavors, we must practice our push-ups in our mind as regularly as we would with our body.

With tasks that range from as simple as rearranging pocket change into shapes and patterns, to learning and memorizing the mythological muses and their creative meanings, you’re able to move through this book, adding these exercises to your artistic arsenal. The author walks you through how each assignment in the book has helped in her career as a dancer, teacher and forever student of art and life. It is in their professional and personal experiences, as well as in the teachings from others, that this collection of lessons is born and shared with the reader.

For some, you will have to really move outside of your comfort zone to participate in the curriculum laid out for us as the book goes on. For others, it is a matter of will-power and believing that doing anything is better than doing nothing. Some people believe inspiration is a random occurrence, only coming from deep emotions, or trauma, or overwhelming romantic love. The author encourages us to practice our basics consistently, and not relying on fate to bring out the best in our creative endeavors.

What does it take to master your medium? Is one truly born a master? Some may look at Picasso and others like him, who are seemingly born with amazing abilities, and think they will never reach such a status of fame and inspiration. The author’s favorite example of this belief is of Mozart. We learn how the pianist prodigy knew his instrument inside and out, having built them during his younger years. We learn how he would return to pieces he had started, years later, and consistently work through his sparks of creativity. We come to learn how it is dedication that creates prodigies, not a special gene someone is born with that others are missing. It is passion and practice, consistency and collaboration, that breeds a true artist of any trade. “The Creative Habit” teaches anyone willing to read through and experiment, how to hone their skills.

“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.”

My favorite exercise from this book was the creative survey. When reading the book, I went ahead and completed the survey, without a real good sense of what was being asked. This was early on in the book and I wasn’t sure what the intent of the exercises were at first. This is my second time doing it, and I am excited to share my answers with all of you. They are much different than the first survey, and much more direct to my creative and artistic goals.

What is the first creative moment you remember?

writing in many journals as a small child, trying to tell stories.

Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it?

I never shared my writing with anyone as a kid.

What is the best idea you’ve ever had?

Starting the dog rescue.

What made it great in your mind?

It gives me purpose. I am telling the story of each dog to anyone listening.

What is the dumbest idea you’ve ever had?

Thinking I can do everything, in every aspect I apply myself to.

What made it stupid?

Not understanding that certain things deserve more energy than others.

Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?

Being a people pleaser, but not being able to please everyone. You can’t make everyone happy.

What is your creative ambition?

To be a storyteller that effects people.

What are the obstacles to this ambition?

Not knowing how to speak to everyone’s level of empathy and compassion.

What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?

Learning various ways of writing, from various standpoints of life.

How do you begin your day?

Taking care of the dogs and getting ready for work.

What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?

I am establishing new habits to read a book once a month and write my prompts every day.

Describe your first successful creative act.

The Eye of Horus painting I did in grade school.

Describe your second successful creative act.

Singing in my school talent show.

Compare them.

Neither of these acts are in the medium that I have chosen as my mode I am trying to master. I have tried many different avenues of artistic expression, but did not feel confident in my writing abilities.

What are your attitudes toward:
Money – It comes and it goes.
Power – I like it but it gives me anxiety
Praise – I like it but it gives me anxiety.
Rivals – I don’t like having them and they give me anxiety.
Work – It keeps me structured and focused.
Play – I like to play as much as possible.

Which artists do you admire most?

Stephen King, Chuck Palahnuik, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Instagram “wild” make-up artists, Instagram comic strip creators.

Why are they role models?

They are great storytellers and I enjoy their creativity.

What do you and your role models have in common?

I feel like they want to invoke strong emotions in people, like I do.

Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?

Luna and Lizzie.

Who is your muse?

Luna is my muse.

Define muse.

someone who inspires you to create and break the boundaries, challenging yourself and being able to express yourself as you’d like.

When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond?

I am intimidated.

When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond?

I am frustrated and become snappy.

When faced with impending success or the threat of failure, how do you respond?

I am anxious either way. But I believe that things will work out for the best. Most worrying comes down to “5 minutes of stupidity”.

When you work, do you love the process or the result?

I love the process. I am usually not satisfied with the result but am able to accept the ending as it is.

At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp?

when I am overwhelmed and feel like there are no other options to try.

What is your ideal creativity?

Writing stories people can relate to, that have an impact on the way people think and act.

What is your greatest fear?

Not being successful enough to be remembered.

What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening?


Which of your answers would you most like to change?

None, since I’ve done this survey before.

What is your idea of mastery?

Trying everything, being skilled in most everything to do with your medium. Always being willing to learn more.

What is your greatest dream?

To change the world to be a better place for everyone who exists on it.

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