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316 of 324 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make it a habit.
Twyla Tharp's new book, The Creative Habit, is
1. Practical and straightforward, two attributes to be expected from a dancer. Dancers wrestle daily with the obstinacies of the flesh. It's not about smoke and mirrors. It's about hard work and commitment, the "habit" of showing up to do the work and developing one's creativity in the process.
2. Literary and...
Published on October 22, 2003 by Cedric's Mom

versus
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great to hear about the process, not so great as a practical guide
"Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable." -Twyla Tharp

When I decided to read The Creative Habit right after The War of Art, I have to admit I gave myself a great big pat on the back. The War of Art was great in helping artists...
Published on August 25, 2011 by Michelle Ward


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316 of 324 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make it a habit., October 22, 2003
By 
Cedric's Mom (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Twyla Tharp's new book, The Creative Habit, is
1. Practical and straightforward, two attributes to be expected from a dancer. Dancers wrestle daily with the obstinacies of the flesh. It's not about smoke and mirrors. It's about hard work and commitment, the "habit" of showing up to do the work and developing one's creativity in the process.
2. Literary and literate. Tharp quotes the Bible, Dostoyevsky, Mozart, and many other greats of the Western Canon to illustrate her points and show that the struggle to be creative is nothing new and that great artists have fought the same battles as anyone who strives to create.
3. Accessible. There's no mystery or theory of genius here other than the habit of work. Tharp constantly makes the point that we have to establish habits for our creative pursuits or the work will not get done and the creativity will have no place to manifest.
4. Myth Busting. Mozart didn't get his musical genius from On High; in fact, he worked his fingers into early deformity from practicing so much. Not that Tharp proposes hurting oneself in the creative quest. She's merely making the point that practice is supreme, not sitting around waiting for the muse to make an appearance. Her choice of Mozart is historical, but I've heard similar about Michael Jordan. When other ball players were out doing whatever, Jordan was on the court practicing his shots.
5. Encouraging. One of America's greatest choreographers shares her demons with us, so we know our fears aren't "special," and no, they won't go away with success, so stop with the "if only." Wrestling demons is just part of the process; it comes with the territory.
I love the layout of this book: an airy, elegant use of color, font, and white space, which parallels the visual of her stage work. Tharp is very generous in sharing details of her work regimen and her methods for getting things done. Obviously it works for her. The good news is that because her methods are so practical, they can work for others, too.
Tharp uses photos very sparingly in this book, so if you're looking for a photo history of her career or her company, this isn't the book. She focuses on the Creative Habit and she doesn't make herself or her work the center of the story; she draws on the experience and history of many well-known artistic giants and a few lesser known artists as well.
If you want to create or you're interested in the creative process, don't wait for the paperback. I've seen many books on creativity, but this is by far the most practical and accessible one I've read. Tharp knows that it takes hard work and good habits to create something tangible, and she doesn't waste our precious time on mystical mumbo jumbo or some magical "way" of the artist. It's the work, folks.
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108 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Guide to Mastering the Creative Life, September 29, 2003
By 
F. Avery "the reading miko" (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is an excellent guide to mastering the creative life for any creative professional (or as Tharp suggests, it's for any personal creativity as well). Full of great anecdotes, excellent quotes, usable activities and exercises, and most importantly, full of advice and questions that make the reader reassess their goals and their career. The book is thin and some pages occasionally have larger text for emphasis, but don't let that deceive you. It's a vast storehouse of knowledge: ranging from Mozart, to Dostoevsky, to childhood photographs, to how to keep your creative activities organized and so on and so forth. Tharp reminds me of Hemingway in her ability to get to the point, she doesn't stray, and yet her brief topics are fulfilling as starting points for your own exploration into what works for each individual artist. Books like this keep me going strong when I'm flagging.
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107 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Artist's way of discipline, November 17, 2004
Inevitably any self-help creativity book will be compared to Julia Cameron's block-buster, The Artist's Way. Those who liked Cameron will find similarities here, but also differences. I will be recommmending both for my career change and business consulting clients.

Cameron directly uses "spirituality" throughout her book, with references to "God," who, she says, can be broadly defined. She appeals to images and emotion.

Tharp goes directly to action. She's strictly verbal: no cute sayings, no quotations all over the page. She's as unadorned as the Nike swish and just as straightforward: "Just do it" could be her motto.

Her own life seems starkly disciplined. Lots of people get up before dawn (they must not have dogs -- mine demands a walk right away) but Tharp actually gives up movies while she's working on a project. Not just movies, but videos as well. Too distracting, she says.

The key to art, she says, is practice. Dancers start with class, whether they're stars or corps members. Painters prepare their material. Practice harder, she says, but with "purpose." And practice what's difficult. We tend to practice only what we do well. I think not only of dancers, but of basketball players like Cynthia Cooper, who practiced left-handed dribbling and three-point shots for hours.

My favorite part of Tharp's book was her discussion of ruts. A rut can be associated iwth bad timing, a bad idea, bad luck, most likely because you don't realize you have changed and the world has changed.

Her advice foro a typical artist problem - when to stop tinkering - is straightforward: When you feel that you have straightened out a messy room, stop! Otherwise, keep working.

While I enjoyed Tharp and recommend the book to everyone, I believe it's targeted to people who are already committed to making a living through creativity. Some people have an innate sense of what sells while others struggle with unread manuscripts and unseen artwork.

I would read The Creative Habit as a set of ideals, a philosophy rather than a prescription. For example, to get out of a rut, Tharp recommends, "Challenge your assumptions." This is not easy, as few people recognize their own assumptions. And as for acting on challenges...well, that's a whole new world!

Finally, as a career consultant, I am reminded that much of our world favors commercialism over creativity. Jobs often reward those who stay quietly in their boxes, rather than going outside the box. Once your creativity awakens, it's easy to become frustrated because there's no place to carry it out. But for most people, the creative life can bring its own rewards. And a daily practice session (if you know how to create a purposeful practice session) can surprise you.

-- Cathy Goodwin (.com)
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great to hear about the process, not so great as a practical guide, August 25, 2011
By 
Michelle Ward "WhenIGrowUpCoach" (Brooklyn, New York United States) - See all my reviews
"Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable." -Twyla Tharp

When I decided to read The Creative Habit right after The War of Art, I have to admit I gave myself a great big pat on the back. The War of Art was great in helping artists recognize & identify where & why Resistance stops you from doing That Creative Thing You Do, but the phrase "A Practical Guide" at the bottom of the cover of The Creative Habit made me think that it would address the "how." Sure, The War of Art really hit home with that beloved phrase, "Just do it (Every day. No matter what)," & while that's simplistic & powerful in so many ways, the artist & life coach in me wanted more. I was hoping The Creative Habit would deliver it, and it did - to a point.

The Creative Habit is divided into chapters that formulate a foundation for Tharp (Spine, Memory, Accidents, etc). She delves into personal anecdotes & advice, always followed by a suggestion of different exercises to further you along in your discovery & personal interpretation of that idea. For example, Twyla speaks often of "scratching", or the process of "digging through everything to find something" - an idea, an image, anything that'll turn into a tangible idea that'll spark your creative endeavor. One of the most memorable exercises comes at the end of the chapter, where she encourages the reader to take a handful of coins in any number & denomination & toss them onto a table to see how they fall, & then rearrange them into a pattern again & again & again, like "a musical chord resolving." I can see how it helps her, a world-renowed choreographer, come up with new configurations for her dancers. I can see, also, how it helps me, a creative person looking for a new perspective, to see infinite possibilities in something that I usually wouldn't look twice at.

Tharp lays it out on the table (i.e. "Somebody's done this before!") & then knocks it down (i.e. "Honey, it's all been done before. Get over yourself"). She also speaks of the joy of planning (not overplanning!) & imperfection, how to determine if you're in a rut, how to keep your groove going & how to deal with failure. Her advice is comforting & inspiring, all the while giving me new perspective & allowing me to feel that I wasn't alone. It's no mistake that rarely do 2 pages flip by that aren't marked by my highlighter.

I mentioned to someone (I forget who, & it's bothering me!) a while ago that I was reading the book, & she mentioned that it's tough to get through it as someone who is more of a Renaissance Soul, & is unable and/or unwilling to just throw themselves into their work. Tharp talks often about how she'll rid herself of all distractions (no music! no clocks! no numbers (yes, really - numbers)! no speaking!) & just live, breathe, think, talk & think the gym & the rehearsal studio - for weeks. She also encourages artists to "pick" a talent if they excel at more than one, as it's a curse to have a 50% chance of being wrong about their true calling. The life coach & Renaissance Soul in me super dislikes this sentiment, but I understand her stance if you're someone that wants to Master & Excel in their field - & is willing & able to chuck the rest of Life.

That said, here are my favorite exercises from the book, just waiting for journaling!:

Tharp poses 33 questions for you to answer in Your Creative Autobiography. Get out your journal & answer some of my faves (seriously - you'll totally want to):
What is the first creative moment you remember? Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it?
What is the best idea you've ever had? What made it great in your mind?
What is your creative ambition? What are the obstacles to this ambition? What are the vital steps to this ambition?
What are your habits? What patters do you repeat?
What do you & your role models have in common?
At what moments do you feel your reach exceed your grasp?
When you work, do you love the process or the result?
Pick a new name. What would you want it to say about you? What would it be? Why?
Take a field trip. Give a walk into purpose by saying that you won't return home until you have something inspiring in your hand, whether it's visual, intellectual or tangible.
For one day, be completely contrary. Pick a fight with everything you do - your wake-up routine, your rituals, your habits, your first creative impulse.
Figure out Your Perfect World. What are the rules & conditions? What's essential & what can be compromised on? Who is with you & what's surrounding you?

Bottom Line? The Creative Habit is a great book from a world-renowned artist who divulges her secrets in creating a new piece, building on it, sticking with it (both the piece as a singular unit & the career as a whole), & climbing the artistic ladder. But if you're looking for an interactive program of sorts, or something that's really gonna kick your ass into gear, I'd take a pass.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection, December 28, 2006
At age 12 I wanted to run away to New York and be a choreographer like Twyla Tharp. Now, reading her most recent book, I understand why that particular dream never happened. I thought in words (she explains in an interesting story about a painter who wasn't a painter), so I became a writer instead... some would say a successful one.

But the idea of Ms. Tharp remained... the image of a focused, impassioned productive artist who created so many of the tableaux I adored. I have taught the Julia Cameron book "The Artist's Way," but deep down I yearned for instruction from the Big Guns, a word from one of the true masters. This elegant, disciplined, focused-yet-imaginative book was the answer. I found it by accident while browsing a section of the library on memory and imagination. It almost fell into my hands, and I've been poring over it much as a single urbanite might study the "Weddings & Celebrations" section of the New York Times.

It stands beside Ray Bradbury's "Zen and the Art of Writing," above Benjamin Zander's "The Art of Possibility" (Zander's is good, but this is so much more), and really on its own as a fascinating document of how someone *that talented* gets the job done. A rare, rare gem.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Debunking the 'magic' of leading a creative life, November 24, 2007
By 
Rebecca Ryan (Madison, WI USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Any artist, entrepreneur or creative person who fancies herself or himself living all - or most - of their lives according to their own rules will do well to read Ms. Tharp's book. I liked it for two reasons:

(1) Ms. Tharp writes with authority. She's led an artist's life for more than thirty years. She's managed to make it to the top of her profession, and earns top fees for her creative work. Reading her first-person account - a person who's actually DONE IT - always beats a book full of interesting ideas from someone who hasn't.

(2) She tells the truth. Ms. Tharp writes,"After so many years, I've learned that being creative is a full time job with its own daily patterns....The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bold of inspiration, maybe more." (p.7). This is a theme she returns to again and again: leading a creative life takes focus and discipline. There are no shortcuts, magic recipes, or 5-step programs in this book.

Lucky for us, Ms. Tharp shares liberally from her own bag of unorthodox tricks to help us move through both the daily drudgery and practice...and the moments of inspiration. Her prose felt like a wise mentor reaching out, looking me square in the face and saying, "Look kid, it's not as easy as it looks. Here's the drill..."
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, September 25, 2007
It's a shame this book is marketed as self-help---even if that's, more or less, what it is. But what it isn't---cliche, self-absorbed, trite---is what makes this work refreshing and wholly different from most books in this narcissistic genre.

Tharp's book, although spare and precise, is a meditation on what creativity is---the ultimate reason for getting out of bed each day---and how we can work toward cultivating it, regardless of the genre from which we aspire to create.

This is the perfect self-help book for those who abhor the very concept of self-help; Tharp does not condescend or state the obvious. This is a look inside the mind of a master of creativity---and how very fortunate for the rest of us that she took the time to share.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on how to develop a creative practice, February 4, 2004
By A Customer
As a frequent consumer of self-help genre books, I had a fair amount of skepticism regarding this one. What could a dancer teach me? However, having read the entire book cover to cover while underlining key ideas, words, or phrases, I have to say this is probably the most practical and insightful book on the creative process that I have ever read. Kudos to Twyla for demystifying creativity. She demonstrates that while there is no substitute for talent (and perhaps the blessings of the gods), much of the creative process is about discipline, focus, dedication, rituals, and creating space for allowing your creative spirit to spring forth.
This is a book I will turn to again and again. Simply the best of its kind.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't just sit there., April 12, 2004
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Create something new. This book describes how Tharp, and the intent reader, can amplify their creative energies and direct them into creative output. It is so effective that, just a few pages in, I had to put the book down to go back to some writing that had languished.

When I got back to the book, I enjoyed it immensely. If anyone thought for a moment that creativity is some little light that flips on when it will, they are seriously mistaken. Occasional, random flashes do not support a livelihood. The good news is that, whatever your field, creativity can be cultivated. Someone working hard enough and working the right way really can generate what is needed, on a reliable basis.

The process she describes is grueling. It involves massive amounts of training and effort, every day, for years at a stretch. Like it or not, that's the way it has to be. Scientific creativity requires identical dedication and single-mindedness, as described by Santiago Ramon y Cajal in his Advice for a Young Investigator. The good news is that the training works. The process is the same for a mathematician as for a painter or dancer. It is certain and effective. This doesn't mean that every painter will become a Picasso or that every dancer can be a Tharp. It does mean that a sufficiently dedicated worker can generate new ideas, good ones, predictably.

Maybe, at this point, you can imagine some whiner mewling "I'm dedicated, but that's way too much work and it's boring." Such people have no idea what dedication means. Don't argue with them. It won't do them any good, and it will waste time you could have used productively.

I admit that I never learned to appreciate dance, let alone Tharp's oeuvre. I still respect her as an artist and innovator, even though I do not understand her art. This book was very well written - surprisingly well, since dancers I've known tend not to be verbally oriented. I enjoyed the way she opened her thoughts to the reader. It even felt voyeuristic at times, when she shared few words of her private vocabulary. I recommend this to anyone who creates new ideas of their own, or who wants an insider's word on the act of creation.

--wiredweird
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Infuriatingly Simple, February 18, 2004
By 
Edward Roberts (Acworth, Ga United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Boil this book down and you're left with one idea: Work at your craft ever day.
Twyla Tharp has created a book that is inspiring while being infuriating, especially for someone trying to master something new. The transcendant talent of Mozart or Isaac Newton inspires, but Ms. Tharp insists that those transcendant geniuses were the product of showing up every day and working at whatever their craft was. There's no magic; there might be inborn talent, but it's doubtful. Instead, you have to sit down every day and work through idea after idea until you find the gem that creates art. With practice, again every day, this will happen more and more often, and if you work at it every day for long enough, you will make being a great talent into a habit that becomes your way of life.
Thank you and curse you Ms. Tharp for reminding me of what my parents and teachers always told me: work hard, do your best, stick to it, and good things will happen.
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