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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writing Habits Sustain You

I'm reading an excellent book by Twyla Tharp. It's called "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life." I'd only read two pages when I suddenly grabbed a pen and jotted down quote after quote. This book speaks to me. I get it. And it's based around a truth I find incredibly comforting. Creativity depends on hard work.

Ballet Dancing
Photo by gracewong

For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Tharp, she's one of America's greatest choreographers and dancers. This woman knows, lives, and breathes creativity, and I feel blessed she chose to share her thoughts on the creative process.

One of my favorite quotes: "It's vital to establish some rituals--automatic but decisive patterns of behavior--at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way."

She asserts that artists must stay in shape with regular workouts. Writers must write regularly. Dancers must dance regularly. Painters must paint regularly. But she takes it a step further and says that we must also make it easier by ritualizing the process. It might be one small thing you do, such as getting a cup of coffee before you sit at your computer, but it alerts the brain that it's go-time.

A day or two off can make you rusty and can easily turn into a week or a month. She admits you're not always going to be in the mood to create. That's why training ourselves to automatically start is vital to the creative process. We can't rely on willpower alone.

"Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn't scare you, doesn't shut you down... To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that's habit-forming."

What do you think? Are you surprised to learn that our most celebrated and talented artists wrestle with their muses too? That only by their dedication and devotion to their art do they leap ahead?

Join me on Friday to share our aspirations for 2010.

33 comments:

  1. Well, I'm more RELIEVED than surprised. :)

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  2. Good Morning!

    Jennifer: Me too. When I read the book, I was comforted and inspired.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  3. I'll second Jennifer on that. And I love that whenever I'm tempted to be intimidated by someone I remember they are human...

    ~ Wendy

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  4. I have a neighbor and friend (he's 85) who played first french horn in our symphony for years ... travelled all around the world. He once told me that he couldn't take a day off of practicing EVER (before he retired) because he would lose his tone.

    I thought that was interesting, but your post has made me realize that it applies to me and my craft as well. I can take a day off now and again, but if I take too many, then it is difficult to get back on track.

    love this quote and post.

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  5. What an inspirational book! I'm not surprised though at the dedication and devotion necessary to make whatever our passion may be a significant part of our lives. And if it comes from our heart, it is so worth the efforts, fulfilling others and ourselves equally.

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  6. Writing M-F is the only exercise that produces bebefits for me. No straying for the formula!

    The weekends are reading and family time.

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  7. Sounds like a good book, with some wise counsel. I'm currently reading Stephen King's "On Writing" who also gives some good tips on the subject.

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  8. Thanks, Jill.
    We all have to find how to best support our creativity. How to push ourselves forward. I like the idea of having rituals that put us in the right space to be open to the muse.

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  9. I'm not surprised at all that talented artists wrestle with their muses. I think it happens to every single successful writer/artist, and if it doesn't, something is wrong. ;-)

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  10. I love my writing routine. I don't feel right unless I'm following it.

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  11. Writing routine, yay! I try to have one, but with my three year old it can get really tricky. I have to be flexible. I do have routines that work with flexibility, though, and that's helping a lot. Thanks for some great quotes!

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  12. Wendy; Good point. They seem super-human, though, don't they? :)

    Tess: So true. I'm the same way. If I go more than a weekend without writing, I avoid my ms. I wish I could say I hop out of bed each morning on a mission to write, but sadly, I don't!

    Joanne: Your entire comment should be a quote. Well said!

    Tamika: Same here!

    Sallyo: Love Stephen King's book! I may have to check it out of the library again...

    Paul: "Open to the muse." Yes. That's it exactly.

    Melissa: I think you're right. Creativity is about taking risks, which by nature involves doubting ourselves. Good point.

    Erica: I'm the same way. The dependability of my routine is what I crave.

    Lady Glam: Sniff, sniff--so nice to see you! I know you've been taking time off and I've missed you! Routines with three-year olds get sidetracked often. Do the best you can!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  13. Not a bit surprised, but it's nice to be reminded.

    I remember Twila from the "old days." And anyone who watches dancers KNOWS the adage about practice making perfect!!!!

    Blessings,
    Patti

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  14. Hi Jill, Thanks for the quotes. Very inspiring. I remember reading a book by Ms. Tharp on creativity. Don't remember if it's the same as you're reading, but she did have a LOT to say that spoke to me. The discipline, the dedication to creating art, year in and year out. If I can make the time this afternoon, I'll be going to Starbucks to do my writing for the day. That is the place where my brain kickstarts into "go"...and not just because of the caffeine I intake when I get there! Patrice

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  15. Great sounding book. I'm not always in the mood to create..... good reminder. :O)

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  16. Super post Jill! And I must get that book. I know this, that if I go too long without writing, I get really stale. And we can't have that now can we?

    Oh hey, synopsis is just about polished. A little tweaking here and there. Thanks for all your help. Without you and Beth my crit partner I would have been lost. :0)

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  17. Nope, not surprised. Guess I better get on top of things. *grin*

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  18. I'm relieved. And wondering where in all the busy-ness of a day I can fit even an hour of writing. How can 24 hours not be enough? ARGH! :0)

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  19. This is such wonderful advice and a unique way to apply it. First time to your great blog today!

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  20. Oh, I agree with that! I think that when one becomes comfortable with one's art or talent, failure sets in. Those ballerinas up there are so beautiful!

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  21. I love this post! Writing, and other forms of art, are a lot about creativity. BUT creativity won't keep you going and won't help you grow. There has to be discipline, too. Thanks, Jill!

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  22. Hey Jill! That doesn't surprise me. I think anything that has beauty takes work to create...whether that's writing, dancing, singing, painting, etc.

    That's an adorable picture!

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  23. Good to know:) BTW, I love the look of your blog and your header. You did change it didn't you?

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  24. I'm not surprised.

    I've been attending the online conference, "A Woman Inspired - An Efficient and Creative Life." My friend, Kathryn Lang, gave an expanded view on developing habits. Not only does it take three weeks to establish one, but a total of six weeks to make it feel natural.

    Twila Tharp's words remind me of this principle.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  25. Kind of surprised, but definitely relieved.

    I absolutely love the idea of rituals and the more I think about it, the more I realize it helps me. I always grab a cup of tea before I write. It sets the mood.

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  26. Wow what a great book. The quotes you shared are packed full of wisdom. I agree with the need to have a routine. Creativity can be a random thing, a wave on the shore, but habits and routines help that wave to roll in at least some of the time and provide space for creativity to occur. :)

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  27. Reading about the process others go through inspires me too. While natural talent and inclinations are part of it, regular hard work plays the biggest factor. As to ritual...I'm still stuck on that eating thing.

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  28. Wow, good stuff! Thanks so much. Need to check out this book:)
    Blessings!
    Karen

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  29. I just read through all the amazing comments from yesterday afternoon and today. Welcome to the new visitors! And your enthusiasm is contagious. Makes me want to bottle it!

    Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  30. I'm so glad to hear that other creative types need to work just as hard. This rings true to me.

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  31. Sorry to be so late to the party, first time visitor, via a link from Scobberlotch:

    The architect Le Corbusier said that "Creation is a patient search", and after many years in the architecture business, I believe him.

    Ms. Tharp's words are a corollary to Corbu, and they are ones that I was not fully aware of until recently, when I decided that I probably should have been a writer instead of an architect.

    Ritual, discipline: I can feel the teacher pulling on my ear right now, telling me to get to work. Great post, really liked it!

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  32. {Applause}

    My husband and I often discuss that the end result of any creative effort is also the work of several months/years/decades. Hard. Work. And putting in the time.

    Thank you for pointing me towards Tharp's book. It's on my 'to read' list, now.

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  33. Hi
    Very nice and intrestingss story.

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