Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Creative Habit - book review

There are so many good things to say about this book that I hardly know where to start!  The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life is an easy-to-read tome all about how to make creativity a habit.

The basic premise of the book is that "in order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative." The author shares examples based on her life as a choreographer, however the information is relevant for everyone regardless of creative pursuits. I thoroughly enjoyed this look into her life and am impressed with the amount of research, preparation, and work that goes into the choreography for a performance.

I also found this book to be very aesthetically pleasing as the typeface and margins were slightly different than a typical book, which I think is apropros for a book on creativity!

Even the design of the chapter title pages was attractive. I think all the white space symbolizes the openness that's needed in developing new and creative ideas.

My favorite chapter was the one on harnessing memory and how creatives are able to mine their memories for INSPIRATION.  She discusses muscle memory, virtual memory, sensual memory, institutional memory, and ancient memory and how we connect what we are experiencing now with what we've experienced before through metaphor. She asserts that "metaphor is the lifeblood of all art," thus memory is important to creativity.

Each chapter ends with exercises designed to help creatives get out of a rut and be open to new possibilities. A couple of my favorite suggestions are:
(1) spend a week without something (mirrors, clocks, newspapers, etc), and
(2) spend time observing two people interacting and note every interaction, then repeat the observation with two other people and only note the interactions that you find interesting - this reveals judgment and powers of observation as well as how individuals are selective and filter the world through their particular viewpoint.

I am especially intrigued by her exercise of "Reading Archaeologically" - reading backwards in time. For example, start with a modern book on a topic, then read another book that predates that one, and so on, working back to ancient texts. She also recommends reading an author's entire body of work backwards as a different way of seeing and learning about the author's themes, philosophies, and style changes. I definitely want to give this a try - I don't have an author or topic in mind, so I'm open to suggestions (which can be left in the comments below!).

I actually checked this book out from our local library, however it's a book that would be FUN to own because it's worth reading again, highlighting important points, and trying out the various exercises in order to prepare and be creative! I discovered that Twyla Tharp has a new(er) book out, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together. I definitely want to read this one, too. In The Creative Habit she often mentions how performances involve so many individuals working together, from the choreographer, composer, dancers, and musicians, to the set designers and lighting crew, so I know she'll have wonderful tips for collaboration.

I also did a little research on Twyla Tharp and she is still working today. In fact, her dance company will be performing here in Dallas in September as part of her 50th anniversary tour.

 Have you read this book? Obviously, I highly recommend it if you haven't!


  1. I bought it long time ago and started reading it, but, unfortunately, I'm not into reading and never finished it :( Now that I'm pregnant and have some times that I really need to rest, I may go back and re-start it :) THANKS!

  2. I have got to STOP reading book reviews! I currently have a 147 on my "to read" list. If I don't add anymore, It will take me about 4 years to read all of them!!

  3. This book has been on my to read list of quite some time. I will have to move it up the list. The challenge to read about a topic going backwards in time would be interesting. I think I would pick something historical to see how the view on events changed and evolved.

  4. It's on my list to read, as well. I saw Twyla Tharp many years ago at a summer dance festival.

  5. I've just added the book to my Amazon Wish List. I'm currently reading "Better Than Before" by Gretchen Rubin - a book about forming habits - on Karen's recommendations and really enjoying it and learning a lot in the process. Reading time is limited for me, but your glowing recommendation makes me want to get started!

    I agree with Monica that something historical would be a good subject for backwards reading. If you read something written recently, say about race relations, and go backwards in time through the right to vote, abolition of slavery, etc. It could be really interesting.

  6. I have this on my bookshelf, and have read the first couple of chapters, but never got further. I keep meaning to pick it up again, but get distracted.

  7. I am totally getting this based on your review, thanks!!


Thanks so much for your comment - it's like a ray of sunshine in my day!