I read Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit with a red pen in hand as it became evident just a few pages in that I'd be making lots of margin notes. I want to share a baker's dozen of Tharp's ideas and words with you.
1. "Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits."
That seems like a contradiction, but it makes perfect sense. It also discredits the idea that inspiration strikes us unexpectedly and out of nowhere.
2. "The irony of multitasking is that it's exhausting. . . you're not doing anything excellently. You're compromising your virtuosity."
Multitasking keeps you from doing anything excellently. I love this thought! We are often so proud of ourselves for juggling many tasks simultaneously. Better, Tharp suggests, to concentrate on one thing at a time.
3. "Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art."
I've had a long-time affair with metaphors. I love them. It's what attracted me to the Renaissance and John Donne.
4. ". . . the real secret of creativity is to go back and remember."
I'm still mulling this one over. Seemingly a contradiction, but surely not as memory seems to incite invention.
5. "Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box."
Exceptionally cool thought. See picture above.
6. ". . . you don't have a really good idea until you combine two little ideas."
Perfect. Court the clash. The collision of opposites. Find a connection between seemingly unrelated ideas.
7. "Your creative endeavors can never be thoroughly mapped out ahead of time. You have to allow for the suddenly altered landscape, the change in plan, the accidental spark—and you have to see it as a stroke of luck rather than a disturbance of your perfect scheme."
I want that altered landscape. Take me off the mapped-out route.
8. "In creative endeavors luck is a skill."
We can make luck happen!
9. "Creativity is an act of defiance."
Again, the idea of collision. Look for trouble. Welcome it when it comes. At least when writing.
10. ". . . a generous spirit contributes to good luck."
Yes and yes again.
11. "You're only kidding yourself if you put creativity before craft. Craft is where our best efforts begin."
Students, are you paying attention?
12. "Without passion, all the skill in the world won't lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering. Combining the two is the essence of the creative life."
What could I add to this? Nothing.
13. "Failing, and learning from it, is necessary. Until you've done it, you're missing an important piece of your creative essence."
Suffer the pain; then cherish the failures.