Creative Habits and Goals

I really enjoyed Twyla Tharp's book, The Collaborative Artist, so I was eager to pick up her very popular book, The Creative Habit. It also felt quite fitting with all those New Year's art-making resolutions filling my feeds.

The book was great! I like her clear writing style, that embraces stories of personal experiences, and examples across artistic media.

I read, experience, and talk a lot about art, so some parts of the book felt less innovative. Those chapters covered issues like accepting failure, getting out of artistic ruts, and being open to improvisation. While the core of the content on those topics felt familiar; I do really like how she covered them and I think they would be helpful to many readers.

Below are ideas covered in the book that felt new or innovative in their approach:

  • In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative.
  • Don't over think it, don't get frozen by the pressure of the blank canvas instead just go.
  • Routines and habits are a tool to force you to just keep moving forward. They become the first few steps in the process making the hard part feel easier and more comfortable.
  • Know your "creative DNA" understand where your aesthetic lies. Are you attracted to details? Are you in love with strong emotions? Understanding what you tend to be attracted to can provide more direction.
  • The book presents a series of questions that are designed to help you identify your motivations and goals. She titles it "Your Creative Autobiography". I answered the questions for myself and found some clarity in what I'm doing artistically.
  • Mine your memories. In the book Tharp explains how so much inspiration is bound up in what we know already. She encourages the reader to reflect on something (event, photo, feeling etc...) then break it apart into small pieces. The small pieces that made up the big memory might be a good jumping off point for creative thinking. 
  • Inventory your acquired skills then see if you've attained all you need to complete the work you want to make. She gave a good analogy comparing technique to a clock face. That once you master a skill you should push yourself to perfect the next skill etc... Eventually, you'll come back around to the first skill which will be a bit rusty but with minimal practice will come back. 
  • Develop a single simple root (something broad like a word, or sentence) for your work. Something you can add supporting branches to. This can give your work conceptual strength.

I think what's refreshing about her approach is that she doesn't get caught up on technique as a tool to break through creative blocks. Instead a lot of what she discusses is concept and communication through your chosen art medium.

I, myself, really like goal setting and resolutions and have been considering what kind of goals I want to set for myself in 2018. I didn't complete all my goals I set this year but I did create even more art than I had hoped. It's just that I learned and grew so much as an artist this year that the projects I made were very different than the exercises I had planned. This book helped me realize that I want my 2018 goals to be open ended enough to push me into another big year of growth. Maybe focus more on recognizing the "habits", "rituals", and "roots" that are working for me so I can get even more done.