28 April 2013

"The Creative Habit" read along - Chapters 1 & 2

If you would like to join the closed Facebook group dedicated to this read along to discuss the book in more detail, please send an email to Lynn at FibraArtysta@earthlink.net with your email address.

Here we are with our first installment of "The Creative Habit" read along. My posts here on the blog will touch on what is covered in the chapters read for a particular week and things I found interesting. They are not a substitute for reading the book but rather just a chat. This week we read Chapters 1 and 2. Both of which offer much to think about.

Chapter 1 - I Walk Into a White Room

This chapter is all about beginnings. The start of a project, the blank slate that offers so many possibilities yet so many challenges as well. 

As artists, it's this starting point that is the most difficult to push past. Twyla Tharp's white room refers to the dance studio that she enters to work. But we all have one - a blank canvas, a new page in a sketchbook, a print table with an unaltered piece of fabric laying across it, a sewing machine without a project. It's the place that we face down the start of a project every time, convincing ourselves that we want to move forward, to create.

I automatically think of my print table as my white room. A member of the Facebook group dedicated to this read along said that her white room was inside her head. We all have one - what's your's?

Tharp uses this chapter as in introduction to her philosophy about creativity. She says, "I will keep stressing the point about creativity being augmented by routine and habit. Get used to it. In these pages a philosophical tug of war will periodically rear it's head. It is the perennial debate, born in the Romantic era, between the beliefs that all creative acts are born of (a) some transcendent, inexplicable Dionyian act of inspiration, a kiss from God on your brow that allows you to give the world The Magic Flute, or (b) hard work.

If it isn't obvious already, I come down on the side of hard work. That's why this book is called The Creative Habit. Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That's it in a nutshell."

And with that, we move on to Chapter 2.

Chapter 2: Rituals of Preparation

This chapter covers some pretty heavy topics: rituals, fears and distractions. All of which play a big role in a creative life.

Thap talks about rituals in a way that is really interesting. She says, "All preferred working states, no matter how eccentric, have one thing in common: When you enter into them, they impel you to get started." She talks about how the ritual itself does not have to be something grand and sweeping but rather, it can be something very common and small. A simple thing without pressure that signals it's time to start working.

For me, it's my morning coffee. Not the actual coffee itself, but the time it takes me to drink it. It's always an hour, no matter what my day is. I need those sixty minutes to sit by myself and let my mind go where it wants to, without agenda. It's the only portion of my day that is dedicated to daydreaming and I need it, it's how I begin.

Tharp also discusses fears and distractions. It was comforting somehow to know that many of the personal fears she listed were also ranked amongst my own concerns. There is something calming about knowing no matter how successful an artist is, they still have the same worries. 

One fear she mentioned in particular is always with me at the beginning of a project: "Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind." I don't think this is a bad one to have. The day I start thinking perfection will just roll off my printing tools is the day I've lost sight of my artist self. Nothing will ever be completely perfect. It's a level of discomfort I've come to accept as part of the process.

The last item she touches on are distractions. These are the things that keep us from focusing on what we are working on. She talks specifically about needing to take away distractions while working on a major project. This is a habit I need to work on.

When I've found myself immersed in big projects this past year, I was most effective when I worked only on them. I didn't need to go to as far as she does when she lists the things that she cuts out but I did need to pull back from the Shiny New Project Syndrome. You know what I mean - taking on new things because of the high that comes with starting something new. When I didn't do this, I struggled. I fell into a loop of feeling overwhelmed and not moving along as I felt I should be. 

Focus. It's your friend. 

Tharp says, "It's a simple equation: Subtracting your dependence on some of the things you take for granted increases your independence. It's liberating, forcing you to rely on your own ability rather then your customary crutches."

It's these two chapters that Tharp uses to set up habits for preparing to work. One might be tempted to think that she is neglecting the spiritual side of creativity, the mystery and magic that we feel when we are in our studios. But that's really not the case. What she is covering is a companion to that. A means of active participation with your muse, habits that keep you present in your art making.

It's all about awareness.

Next Sunday, we'll talk about Chapter 3 - Your Creative DNA. Happy reading! :)


HollyM said...

I don't have the book so I won't join the closed group read along.
My white room I think would also be in my head. When I finish a project, I spend a little time doing little projects, thinking about what I might like to do next. Sometimes my mind becomes so over active. That I have trouble to actually get started again. And yes, I often have that fear that it will never be as good as I can imagine it.
Usually I just start some process and then it will come to me later what I might do with it.

Regina Dunn said...

You said "Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind". I have that exact problem. I can never express on my quilts the image that is in my mind. But the image that ends up on the finished product was not what I had planned. It evolved. It was told to me by the fabrics and the paints and the tools. And that I find amazing. It is a magical journey. And so so much FUN.

Judith said...

My WDH handed me my book this morning that came in the mail yesterday. So I have not read the first two chapters. I can say that my ritual starts with my first drink in the morning (coffee or tea). Those three minutes gives me a peace of mind while I look out of my kitchen window. At night before I go to sleep (between 1 - 5 am) I always look out my French doors to see what the night brings me. Mostly my thoughts before I hit the pillow and love how quite it is to hear my thoughts. Judith, Texas

Lesley Riley said...

Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind.

This is an interesting thought. My first reaction is - it may be better! I have always thought my students that even through it doesn't look the way you envision does not mean it is any less of a piece. No one else knows what the vision in your head looks like.

Personally, I have learned to let go of that vision in my head and let the work become what it is meant to be. If you believe that we create from divine intervention, then perhaps the divine knows better that our small minds can envision.

Food for thought and permission to let go of the outcome.

Lisa Chin said...

I was able to get the book from the library but have spent my usual reading time up talking with my daughters this week. I hope to catch up this week. I love your summaries and the comments of others. My creativity (inspiration) seems to come at odd moments when I am doing something else and then it takes hours and hours of hard work to make it happen. It rarely comes out as I imagined so it is always comforting to know it is the same for others. As Lesley said, sometimes it is better than what I imagined. Those moments are fabulous!