I’m only beginning my creative writing career. I haven’t sold any writing, but I have been published here and there. Not to mention on my own site. Oops. I mentioned it.

I have, however, been a ‘creative’ for my entire life. Whether I was pretending to be Speed Racer and taking the Mach 5 to new speeds, playing “Lost Boys” with my best friend, Davy, as I played the smart boy and he played the strong one to get us out of a lava flow dangerously getting closer and closer, or drawing out a story for a graphic novel that I left unfinished, I’ve been ‘creating’ things my whole life.

In fact, I realized a few years ago, that I was even ‘creating’ my life.

When I was asked to extend a course in Creative Identity from one semester to a second semester at the New Design School, a graphic design school in Fayetteville, AR, I was conflicted on what direction to take. In the first course, I took the new students on an inward journey of creativity to see how they viewed themselves and the world to better communicate their commercial creative designs to come. So where could I take them in a second course?

Luckily, I’m surrounded with amazing people, including my lovely, talented, and amazing partner, Christi, who said, “Have you read Making Ideas Happen yet?” I’ll review this book in another article. But it led to the perfect foundation for the class. One aimed at teaching action.

But it was missing an element.

I went through two or three other books and finally landed on Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for life.

While Twyla Tharp is a dancer, her life is all about creativity. And in this book she breaks down all the aspects of living a creative life, the struggles, joys, and accidents along the way.

This book brought the soul of the class to life.

The graphic design of the book also creates a vibrant, easy to read experience. But that’s a different kind of review.

I walk into a white room

The book begins…

I walk into a large white room. It’s a dance studio in midtown Manhattan. I’m wearing a sweatshirt, faded jeans, and Nike cross-trainers. The room is lined with eight-foot-high mirrors. There’s a boom box in the corner. The floor is clean, virtually spotless if you don’t count the thousands of skid marks and footprints left there by dancers rehearsing. Other than the mirrors, the boom box, the skid marks, and me, the room is empty.

As she shares her lifetime journey of dance, she takes you through stories of meeting with Billy Joel to pitch her broadway show idea Movin’ Out, through her failures, her successes, and gives you insights to how she and other creative lifestyles evolve and grow.

I was amazed at how easily her The Creative Habit book matched the content of Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky, over the 12 week class. Her views on how getting “An ‘A’ in Failure” lined up perfectly with how creative professionals shouldn’t get bogged down by failing, but take time to reflect on the internal and external forces and find the lessons to be better prepared in future endeavors.

Tapping into your “Creative DNA,” “Scratching” for ideas, and, my favorite chapter, “Before You Can Think out of the Box, You Have to Start with a Box.”

Again, the parallels with Making Ideas Happen were in alignment where the topic was all about how we all are much more creative when we have a smaller canvas to work on. For example, Tharp said to watch out for people that offer you all the resources you need, no direction, and no restrictions as they are setting you up to fail. But beyond that, Tharp describes her system for creating projects. She makes a box to put all her ideas into and then begins organizing everything into an order to move forward. This is nearly identical to the Action Method described in Belsky’s book.

Tharp also gives exercises to help those interested in building a habit of creativity at the end of every chapter. Some are simple introspective exercises. Others are more time consuming and require physical activity, from stomping your foot and shouting, “BEGIN!” to taking yourself on a trip of exploration.

This book is a MUST for those who have gone through the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, as it shows a real life example of someone who has implemented living a creative life by creating a real creative habit.


You can find all three books on Amazon.com for well under retail.


Photo Credit via http://www.twylatharp.org/: © Richard Avedon.