03 June 2013

The Creative Habit read along - Chapter 6

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.

This is the sixth installment of the read along for "The Creative Habit" by Twlya Tharp.
Chapter 1 and 2 of the read along can be found in this post.
Chapter 3 of the read along can be found in this post. 
Chapter 4 of the read along can be found in this post.
Chapter 5 of the read along can be found in this post.

* Posts will go up on Mondays from now on instead of Sundays. Thanks! :)

Chapter 6 - Scratching

I've been asked on more then one occasion where I get my ideas from. (I'm sure you have as well.) People seem to find me particularly curious since I do abstract work. They look at me like I'm something to be studied because clearly my brain takes a sharp left turn in the imagination department since I'm creating work that has no tangible relation to something real.

Truth is, I can't explain how I get from inspiration to product. And believe me when I say I'm always trying to define it. But it's one of those things that mostly comes down to wiring. I find this chapter of The Creative Habit especially interesting because Tharp talks about that odd zone where ideas are mashed around until we find the one element that we can grab onto and create something from.

Fact is, we often look to external elements in order to gain internal inspiration. Twyla Tharp calls that "scratching."

She says, "Scratching can look like borrowing or appropriating, but it's an essential part of creativity. It's primal, and very private. It's a way of saying to the gods, "Oh don't mind me, I'll just wander around in these back hallways..." and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell."

Ideas are something I'm generally not short on. My brain constantly churns and I have a list that I dump them all into just to get them out of my head. But when I look back at every idea I have, very few of them actually see the light of day and I've always wondered what in the heck the point was to recording them if I don't plan to act on them. (Aside from the obvious "Write them down for later so I don't drive myself nuts trying to remember everything.")

Tharp says it perfectly in this passage about good vs. bad ideas: "A good idea is one that turns you on rather then shuts you off. It keeps generating more ideas and they improve on one another. A bad idea closes doors instead of opening them. It's confining and restrictive. The line between good and bad ideas is very thin. A bad idea in the hands of the right person can easily be tweaked into a good idea."

But getting to the good ideas isn't always easy. So that's why we "scratch". It's the thing you do when you need the next big inspiration but it's not showing up on it's own. For me, I go to the bookstore. I grab a giant pile of books, sit down in an oversized chair and let the chatter of the coffee shop and people laughing meld into a white noise. I stick my nose into books on topics I've never considered before and just zone out. (I probably look a little bit like a deer in headlights.) And with any luck, something occurs. More often, nothing comes of it but when an idea hits that I do the little gasp over, I know I've hit the nail on the head.

I've always likened ideas to dating. Some of them are instant magic and others are one time shots with a side of loosing his phone number.

Not everything will be made. Not every idea will be good. The trick is to be aware of this and let them take their own course. Choose the ones that make your heart sing and leave the others on the sideline to just be.

How about you? How do you scratch?

Next Monday we'll discuss Chapter 7 - Accidents Will Happen.  Happy reading! :)

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