The Creative Habit

08 December 2010 | By Lorelei Vashti

Every dancer knows that without discipline, they would be nothing. And they also know they cannot expect to reach the top of their game unless they have a routine.

These ideas — discipline and routine — are at the core of The Creative Habit. This is an excellent, practical handbook written for artists working in all creative fields, but because it draws so closely on the world Tharp knows best, dancers in particular will get a lot out of it.

Using examples from her experience as a dancer and choreographer across stage and film, she imparts the lessons she’s learned during her 45-year career. As the title suggests, Tharp’s secret to being a successful working artist is to make creativity a habit.

Tharp has an impressive ability to get her ideas across to a broad audience. She is an articulate writer, with an ability to make intelligent, vivid connections between ideas. With Tharp, everything relates back to dance. And dance, of course, relates to everything.

At the end of every chapter, there’s a section called ‘Exercises’, but they’re presented in such a way that they also work as reflective asides. There is no pressure to do this book as a “course” of any kind. Rather, the exercises get you thinking about your own practice. There are some tips for getting yourself out of creative ruts and soldiering on through both success and failure, and through it all Tharp’s smart and sharp attitude shines through.

Full of anecdotes — there is one whole section describing how much Tharp learned during the development and staging of her Billy Joel ballet, Movin’ Out — and teeming with practical advice, The Creative Habit is a highly readable book. Whether you’re in a creative rut, or you’re just interested to peek inside the mind of one of America’s greatest choreographers, this book is for you.

The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life
By Twyla Tharp
Simon and Schuster