“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.”
– Twyla Tharp
Twyla Tharp’s 2006 book, The Creative Habit: learn it and use it for life (Simon and Schuster) is one of the best practical guides on how to develop habits to allow you to take your creativity into the real world. The book is a culmination of Tharp’s experiences and expertise as a renowned dancer, choreographer, and creative director who built a very successful career spanning more than half a century.
Each chapter of The Creative Habit looks at creativity from a different angle. In her conversational, easy-to-read style, Tharp emphasizes the importance of discipline and routine in the creative process. She argues that creativity is not a gift but a habit—almost like a muscle-memory– that can be developed with consistent effort and discipline. She encourages readers to establish a routine that involves setting aside a specific time and place for creative work.
Tharp also stresses the importance of preparation and inspiration in the creative process. Rather than sitting back and waiting to be attacked by the muse, she advocates for immersing yourself in different experiences, reading widely, and deliberately exposing yourself to new ideas and perspectives. She notes that creativity often emerges from unexpected sources, and it is important to be open to new experiences and ideas.
Another key theme in the book is the role of failure. Tharp argues that failure is an inevitable part of any creative journey and should be embraced as an opportunity for growth and learning. She notes that many of her most successful works have emerged from failure and that it is important to view setbacks as opportunities to try again and to refine your approach.
Throughout the book, Tharp provides readers with practical exercises and techniques that can be used to develop a creative habit. She encourages readers to experiment and take risks. She is generous with examples from her own experiences as a dancer and choreographer, highlighting the practical ways she has applied these techniques in her own work, and the results she has seen. Her insights and advice are applicable to a wide range of creative fields, from writing and music to dance, theatre, and visual arts.
In short, if you’re interested in taking your ideas out of your head and into the real world in a consistent way, this book is worth your time.