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The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life Paperback – January 6, 2006


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The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life + Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative + Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (January 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743235274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743235273
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Perhaps the leading choreographer of her generation, Tharp offers a thesis on creativity that is more complex than its self-help title suggests. To be sure, an array of prescriptions and exercises should do much to help those who feel some pent-up inventiveness to find a system for turning idea into product, whether that be a story, a painting or a song. This free-wheeling interest across various creative forms is one of the main points that sets this book apart and leads to its success. The approach may have been born of the need to reach an audience greater than choreographer hopefuls, and the diversity of examples (from Maurice Sendak to Beethoven on one page) frees the student to develop his or her own patterns and habits, rather than imposing some regimen that works for Tharp. The greatest number of illustrations, however, come from her experiences. As a result, this deeply personal book, while not a memoir, reveals much about her own struggles, goals and achievements. Finally, the book is also a rumination on the nature of creativity itself, exploring themes of process versus product, the influences of inspiration and rigorous study, and much more. It deserves a wide audience among general readers and should not be relegated to the self-help section of bookstores.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School--Tharp shows how and why artists must actively seek and nurture inspiration. The dancer/choreographer draws heavily on her personal experiences to guide readers into cultivating habits that give birth to success. In addition, she recounts the experiences of artists from other disciplines, including painting and cinematography. Vignettes from the lives of people such as Mozart underline the fact that even geniuses work hard to realize the fruits of their labor. A personable tone is carried throughout the book, and within the text is a gold mine of advice. Tharp not only promotes tried-and-true habits, but also encourages readers to dig deep within themselves and come up with their own answers. Most sections conclude with exercises; they are fun and almost seamlessly bring home the author's main points. The black-and-white illustrations and photos are few in number. Students from all manner of creative arts who wish to make their dreams come true would benefit from reading this book.--Sheila Shoup, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Twyla Tharp, one of America's greatest choreographers, began her career in 1965, and has created more than 130 dances for her company as well as for the Joffrey Ballet, The New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, London's Royal Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. She has won two Emmy awards for television's Baryshnikov by Tharp, and a Tony Award for the Broadway musical Movin' Out. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1993 and was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1997. She lives and works in New York City.

Customer Reviews

This book should be read by anyone who works creatively.
Clara Lieu
This is a pretty good book, well written, an interesting read, and useful.
Jeffrey McFadden
Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit" is at once inspirational and practical.
L. Young

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

316 of 326 people found the following review helpful By Cedric's Mom VINE VOICE on October 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.
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108 of 112 people found the following review helpful By F. Avery on September 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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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109 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Michelle Ward on August 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
"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.
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