By Ruth Harris
Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit is invaluable—not only if you’re a choreographer like Twyla or engaged in some other officially-designated “creative” endeavor but for anyone interested in making the most of everyday life. An elegant book physically, pleasing to the eye and the hand, The Creative Habit is generous, authoritative, intelligent and well written. Every page brims with advice, specific how-to’s, questionnaires and exercises about how to open your mind, overcome fear, deal with failure, defeat distraction, clarify your thinking, make your way through confusion and find solutions when you know something’s wrong but don’t even know quite what the problem is.
Using an extremely wide-ranging set of examples ranging from Homer to Proust, from Ulysses S Grand to Ludwig Wittgenstein and Pope LeoX, from Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine to Ansel Adams, Raymond Chandler, Mozart and Yogi Berra, TCH offers a detailed road map based on Ms. Tharp’s own experience about how to define your creative identity. Practical, down to earth and never flinching from the nitty-gritty, Ms. Tharp explains the importance of routine, ritual and setting goals, how to know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea, how to recognize ruts when you’re in one and she offers explicit guidelines about how to get out of them.
Of special interest to Boomers is her candid description of the impact of aging—in her case particularly significant since, as a dancer and choreographer, her life is all about physical expression and movement. She talks about her recognition of the decrease in stamina and the need to set new challenges and tells how she turned the same brutal honesty on herself that she relies on to guide her dancers. She tells how she changed her approach and work habits when, moving through her fifties, she recognized that she wasn’t the same dancer she’d been twenty years before and was confronted by the need to change. She describes what, specifically, she did to make the transition from habits that had served her well for two decades to establishing new approaches that turned the reality of aging into an absorbing challenge.
You will find out about the value of “doing a verb” and about building a bridge to the next day, about the relationship between failure and success, the miracle of second chances and what to do when denial is no longer an option. It is difficult for me to imagine anyone who won’t learn from or be inspired by a book that is part memoir, part manual, part how-to.