Twyla Tharp and Creativity

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 1:00pm

I just rediscovered one of my favorite books on creativity, The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp. Tharp is a popular American dancer, director and choreographer who is known for her innovative and often humorous work.

Tharp says this about working as an artist:

You know how you scratch away at a lottery ticket to see if you’ve won? That’s what I’m doing when I begin a piece. I’m digging through everything to find something. It’s like clawing the side of a mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward….. 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.

Here’s what a client said after reading this passage.

I feel the exact same way! I have this vision of myself groping, gripping, and crawling my way through what seems like an endless tunnel of darkness, trying to find just a hint of light. This is a message for me to keep moving, keep pushing my hand across the paper, and digging through. No matter the days, weeks or years, there is light there.

Prompt: Read this passage from Tharp’s book and imagine grabbing and running with that piece of fire, dancing as you write, clawing the side of a mountain. You are making art. Rejoice in it!