Preparation, routine and practice

In her best selling book, ‘The Creative Habit’, Twyla Tharp explores the idea that “creativity is augmented by routine and habit”. She agrees with Elizabeth Gilbert about it being a combination of ” transcendent inspiration and hardwork”. Tharp does not believe that there are any creative geniuses where fantastic outcomes suddenly appear but that that routine, practice a great and preparation are key in setting out the environment where creativity is sparked.

In my own experience, I would add, keep doing it (whatever ‘it’ is for you), keep creating, experimenting, sometimes it can be boring. And in fact boredom, allowing oneself to become bored, can be a hotbed of creativity. I asked some of my young students when was the last time they were creative and what did they do. One girl said “I decided to draw asked 3D representation of my house.” I asked her why she did this asked her why she had done this and she replied “I was bored in the holidays.”

In my own practice, knitting with wire is one of the techniques I use and this can be very repetitive and boring but also it has a meditative effect. So rather then get frustrated, I use these times to clear my mind of thought and totally go with the flow (if my mind allows).

In creating the setting for creativity, Tharp’s formula for preparation is:

  • Select the environment – a room or space of one’s own, special tools set out, objects of inspiration, light a candle or similar, just make it your space.
  • Develop a start up ritual – Tharp is a dancer/choreographer and so movement with the body is essential as well as heat. In my practice I make sure that the wire is set out in reels or lay out the paint in order, make myself some tea.
  • Face down fears – as explored in the Fears and Daemons post
  • Put distractions in their place – turn off phone or put headphones on to cut out exterior noise

Tharp also describes some exercises/activities that she finds useful:

  • ‘Where’s your pencil’ – what tools do you feel naked without? For me it’s some wire and a pair of pliers in my bag, so that I can doodle if there is some spare time when out and abojt, just in case some inspiration hits
  • Tolerance of solitude – a sort of opposite of meditation, where you sit and let your mind run wild, with whatever that comes in and out. A ‘quietness without loneliness’.
  • Give me one week without – a kind of diet where you try a week without looking in the mirror or looking at news or clocks etc etc

What I also say to my students, is try to “become comfortable at being uncomfortable”, as that way you may also challenge yourself to do something different.

A resounding message from Tharp is that discipline, routine and preparation are so important to foster creativity.

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