Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Creative Habit: From Marcel Proust to Ludwig Wittgenstein, from Mozart to Yogi Berra

An elegant book physically, pleasing to the eye and the hand, THE CREATIVE HABIT by choreographer Twyla Tharp, is generous, authoritative, intelligent and well written.  Each page brims with advice, specific how-to’s, questionnaires and exercises about how to open your mind, overcome fear, deal with failure, defeat distraction, clarify your thinking, make your way through confusion and find solutions when you know something’s wrong but don’t even know quite what the problem is.
Using a wide-ranging set of examples ranging from Homer to Proust, from Ulysses S Grant to Ludwig Wittgenstein and Pope LeoX, from Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine to Ansel Adams, Raymond Chandler, Mozart and Yogi Berra, TCH offers a detailed road map based on Ms. Tharp’s own experience about how to define your creative identity. Practical, down to earth and never flinching from the nitty-gritty, Ms. Tharp explains the importance of routine, ritual and setting goals, how to know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea, how to recognize ruts when you’re in one and she offers explicit guidelines about how to get out of them.
Of special interest to Boomers is her candid description of the impact of aging—in her case particularly significant since, as a dancer and choreographer, her life is all about physical expression and movement.  She talks about her recognition of the decrease in stamina and the need to set new challenges and tells how she turned the same brutal honesty on herself that she relies on to guide her dancers. She tells how she changed her approach and work habits when, moving through her fifties, she recognized that she wasn’t the same dancer she’d been twenty years before and was confronted by the need to change.  She describes what, specifically, she did to make the transition from habits that had served her well for two decades to establishing new approaches that turned the reality of aging into an absorbing challenge.

You will find out about the value of “doing a verb” and about building a bridge to the next day, about the relationship between failure and success, the miracle of second chances and what to do when denial is no longer an option. It is hard for me to imagine anyone who won’t learn from or be inspired by a book that is part memoir, part manual, part how-to.


  1. Sounds like a fascinating book, Ruth! The fine line between routine and "rut" is an important thing to be aware of in our creative lives.

    1. Thanks, Anne. TT is a very interesting woman. Thoughtful & intelligent. Routine supports creativity; a rut destroys it. Important to be able to discern the difference!