marți , 21 noiembrie 2017

“The Creative Habit”, by Twyla Tharp: my favorite quotes

Twyla Tharp The Creative Habit

The most interesting quotes I found in Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life”.

One of the world’s leading creative artists, choreographers, and creator of the smash-hit Broadway show, Movin’ Out, shares her secrets for developing and honing your creative talents – at once prescriptive and inspirational, a book to stand alongside The Artist’s Way and Bird by Bird.

All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit. It is the product of preparation and effort, and is within reach of everyone. Whether you are a painter, musician, businessperson, or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, The Creative Habit provides you with thirty-two practical exercises based on the lessons Twyla Tharp has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career.

In „Where’s Your Pencil?” Tharp reminds you to observe the world – and get it down on paper. In „Coins and Chaos,” she gives you an easy way to restore order and peace. In „Do a Verb,” she turns your mind and body into coworkers. In „Build a Bridge to the Next Day,” she shows you how to clean the clutter from your mind overnight.

Tharp leads you through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work, and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide-open realm of possibilities can be energizing, and Twyla Tharp explains how to take a deep breath and begin… (Simon and Schuster)

If you haven’t read “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp, you’d better start soon. This book has been an inspiration for me in the last few days and there were fragments I liked so much, that I saved to read them again every once in a while.

Here are the best:

 ~

When I walk into the white room I am alone, but I am alone with my:

body

ambition

ideas

passions

needs

memories

goals

prejudices

distractions

fears

These ten items are at the heart of who I am. Whatever I’m going to create will be a reflection of how these have shaped my life, and how I’ve learned to channel my experiences into them.

 ~

After so many years, I’ve learned that being creative is a full-time job with its own daily patterns.

 ~

Over time, as the daily routines become second nature, discipline morphs into habit.

 ~

The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. And this routine is available to everyone.

 ~

Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.

 ~

If art is the bridge between what you see in your mind and what the world sees, then skill is how you build that bridge.

 ~

My daily routines are transactional. Everything that happens in my day is a transaction between the external world and my internal world. Everything is raw material. Everything is relevant. Everything is usable. Everything feeds into my creativity.

 ~

As for me, my preferred working state is thermal – I need heat – and my preferred ritual is getting warm. That’s why I start my day at the gym. I am in perpetual pursuit of body warmth. It can never be too hot for me. Even in the middle of sweltering August, when the rest of New York is half frozen in the comforts of air-conditioning, I have all the windows and doors of my apartment wide open as if to say, “Hello, heat!” I loathe air-conditioning. I like skin that is just about to break out in glistening sweat.

 ~

In those long and sleepless nights when I’m unable to shake my fears sufficiently, I borrow a biblical epigraph from Dostoyevsky’s The Demons: I see my fears being cast into the bodies of wild boars and hogs, and I watch them rush to a cliff where they fall to their deaths. It’s a little more extreme than counting sheep, but it’s far more effective for me.

 ~

You’re never lonely when your mind is engaged.

 ~

Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box.

 ~

We want our artists to take the mundane materials of our lives, run it through their imaginations, and surprise us. If you are by nature a loner, a crusader, an outsider, a jester, a romantic, a melancholic, or any one of a dozen personalities, that quality will shine through in your work.

 ~

When I’ve learned all I can at the core of a piece, I pull back and become the Queen of Detachment. I move so far back that I become a surrogate for the audience. I see the work the way they will see it. New, fresh, objectively. In the theater, I frequently go to the back and watch the dancers rehearse. If I could watch from farther away, from outside the theater in the street, I would. That’s how much detachment I need from my work in order to understand it.

 ~

Immerse yourself in the details of the work. Commit yourself to mastering every aspect. At the same time, step back to see if the work scans, if it’s intelligible to an unwashed audience. Don’t get so involved that you lose what you’re trying to say. This was the yin and yang of my work life: Dive in. Step back. Dive in. Step back.

 ~

Another thing about knowing who you are is that you know what you should not be doing, which can save you a lot of heartaches and false starts if you catch it early on.

 ~

I became my own rebellion. Going with your head makes it arbitrary. Going with your gut means you have no choice. It’s inevitable, which is why I have no regrets.

 ~

One of the horrors of growing older is the certainty that you will lose memory and that the loss of vocabulary or incident or imagery is going to diminish your imagination.

 ~

Creativity is more about taking the facts, fictions, and feelings we store away and finding new ways to connect them. What we’re talking about here is metaphor. Metaphor is the lifeblood of all art, if it is not art itself. Metaphor is our vocabulary for connecting what we’re experiencing now with what we have experienced before.

 ~

It’s not only how we express what we remember, it’s how we interpret it – for ourselves and others.

 ~

Get busy copying. That’s not a popular notion today, not when we are all instructed to find our own way, admonished to be original and find our own voice at all costs! But it’s sound advice. Traveling the paths of greatness, even in someone else’s footprints, is a vital means to acquiring skill.

 ~

Once you realize the power of memory, you begin to see how much is at your disposal in previously underappreciated places.

 ~

Beethoven, despite his unruly reputation and wild romantic image, was well organized. He saved everything in a series of notebooks that were organized according to the level of development of the idea. He had notebooks for rough ideas, notebooks for improvements on those ideas, and notebooks for finished ideas, almost as if he was pre-aware of an idea’s early, middle, and late stages.

 ~

You can’t just dance or paint or write or sculpt. Those are just verbs. You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun—paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into a dance.

 ~

I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” This happens to anyone who is willing to stand in front of an audience and talk about his or her work. The short answer is: everywhere. It’s like asking “Where do you find the air you breathe?” Ideas are all around you.

 ~

If I stopped reading, I’d stop thinking. It’s that simple.

 ~

Reading, conversation, environment, culture, heroes, mentors, nature—all are lottery tickets for creativity. Scratch away at them and you’ll find out how big a prize you’ve won.

 ~

This, to me, is the most interesting paradox of creativity: In order to be habitually creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative, but good planning alone won’t make your efforts successful; it’s only after you let go of your plans that you can breathe life into your efforts.

 ~

No matter how limited your resources, they’re enough to get you started. Time, for example, is our most limited resource, but it is not the enemy of creativity that we think it is. The ticking clock is our friend if it gets us moving with urgency and passion.

 ~

Whom the gods wish to destroy, they give unlimited resources.

 ~

Creativity is an act of defiance. You’re challenging the status quo. You’re questioning accepted truths and principles. You’re asking three universal questions that mock conventional wisdom: “Why do I have to obey the rules?” “Why can’t I be different?” “Why can’t I do it my way?”

 ~

Every act of creation is also an act of destruction or abandonment. Something has to be cast aside to make way for the new.

 ~

I cannot overstate how much a generous spirit contributes to good luck. Look at the luckiest people around you, the ones you envy, the ones who seem to have destiny falling habitually into their laps. What are they doing that singles them out? It isn’t dumb luck if it happens repeatedly. If they’re anything like the fortunate people I know, they’re prepared, they’re always working at their craft, they’re alert, they involve their friends in their work, and they tend to make others feel lucky to be around them.

 ~

I believe that every work of art needs a spine – an underlying theme, a motive for coming into existence. It doesn’t have to be apparent to the audience. But you need it at the start of the creative process to guide you and keep you going.

 ~

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.

 ~

I want my dancers to grab my ideas and abandon common sense. I want them to give something of their own and to push everything to the edge.

 ~

I became a choreographer because I longed to dance, and nobody was making the kinds of dances I felt inside me.

 ~

Every creative person has to learn to deal with failure, because failure, like death and taxes, is inescapable.

 ~

Jerome Robbins liked to say that you do your best work after your biggest disasters. For one thing, it’s so painful it almost guarantees that you won’t make those mistakes again. Also, you have nothing to lose; you’ve hit bottom, and the only place to go is up. A fiasco compels you to change dramatically. The golfer Bobby Jones said, “I never learned anything from a match I won.” He respected defeat and he profited from it.

 ~

Repetition is a problem if it forces us to cling to our past successes. Constant reminders of the things that worked inhibit us from trying something bold and new. We lose sight of the fact that we weren’t searching for a formula when we first did something great; we were in unexplored territory, following our instincts and passions wherever they might lead us. It’s only when we look back that we see a path, and it’s only there because we blazed it.

 ~

By acknowledging failure, you take the first step to conquering it.

 ~

When I look back on my best work, it was inevitably created in what I call The Bubble. I eliminated every distraction, sacrificed almost everything that gave me pleasure, placed myself in a single-minded isolation chamber, and structured my life so that everything was not only feeding the work but subordinated to it. It is not a particularly sociable way to operate. It’s actively anti-social. On the other hand, it is pro-creative.

 ~

More than anything, I associate mastery with optimism. It’s the feeling at the start of a project when I believe that my whole career has been preparation for this moment and I am saying, “Okay, let’s begin. Now I am ready.” Of course, you’re never one hundred percent ready, but that’s a part of mastery, too: It masks the insecurities and the gaps in technique and lets you believe you are capable of anything.

 ~

Creating dance is the thing I know best. It is how I recognize myself. Even in the worst of times, such habits sustain, protect, and, in the most unlikely way, lift us up. I cannot think of a more compelling reason to foster the creative habit. It permits me to walk into a white room…and walk out dancing.

~

It’s your world. Own it.

Twyla Tharp, a pioneer in melding modern dance and ballet with popular music

Twyla Tharpphoto

Twyla Tharp, one of America’s greatest choreographers, began her career in 1965, and in the ensuing years 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. Working to the music of everyone from Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart to Jelly Roll Morton, Frank Sinatra, and Bruce Springsteen, she is a pioneer in melding modern dance and ballet with popular music. In film, she collaborated with Milos Forman on Hair, Ragtime, and Amadeus. For television, she directed Baryshnikov by Tharp, which won two Emmy awards. For the Broadway stage, she directed the theatrical version of Singin’ in the Rain, and in 2003 won a Tony Award for Movin’ Out, which she conceived, directed, and choreographed to the songs of Billy Joel. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. In 1993, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and in 1997 was made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has received eighteen honorary doctorates. She lives and works in New York City. Mark Reiter has collaborated on eleven previous books. He is also a literary agent in Bronxville, New York.

The Creative Habit

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life” was published in 2003 by Simon and Schuster. You can also find it on amazon.com.

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