Thursday, August 23, 2012

the thing about creativity

“I read for growth, firmly believing that what you are today and what you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”

~ Twyla Tharp

“The thing about creativity is, people are going to laugh at it. Get over it.”

~ Twyla Tharp

"A lot of habitually creative people have preparation rituals linked to the setting in which they choose to start their day. By putting themselves into that environment, they start their creative day.

The composer Igor Stravinsky did the same thing every morning when he entered his studio to work: He sat at the piano and played a Bach fugue. Perhaps he needed the ritual to feel like a musician, or the playing somehow connected him to musical notes, his vocabulary. Perhaps he was honoring his hero, Bach, and seeking his blessing for the day. Perhaps it was nothing more than a simple method to get his fingers moving, his motor running, his mind thinking music. But repeating the routine each day in the studio induced some click that got him started."

~ Twyla Tharp

I've placed a book from Twyla Tharp on my recommended reading list (above). I read it about a year ago, and it's a good one.  I'd recommend it to new writers, and ones that just might be stuck in a rut, or who want to develop that 'creative habit.'

I guess that's the one thing I've never struggled with - maintaining the creative habit.  I ignore a lot of other stuff, exercise, housecleaning, but never the creative habit.  Yes, work will sometimes get in the way of it, but everything is centred around, getting back to that writing space.  The creative space.  Maybe it's an instinct, but it's also something that one works at, at times rather devilishly.

I had this conversation with an aspiring poet the other day. Someone who'd been writing for a while.  I asked, what kind of poetry she read.  Oh, no, she wouldn't dream of reading poetry, that might influence her own work. Anyone who has taught poetry workshops or been a writer in residence will have come up against this comment.  So I tried to talk her out of this idea, using all the standard lines.  And I'm pretty sure that she was not at all convinced in the end.

Which really irked me well beyond the point it ought to have.  But I suppose it got me thinking about the low regard in which writers (especially those who don't write mainstream books) are held.  Even those who claim to want to be poets can't be bothered to know who their contemporaries might be.

I loved Twyla Tharp's line about creativity, because indeed, one does often feel laughed at.  Or sneered at.  Though, really, more often ignored.  Fine, fine. Fine.

I'm obviously someone who understand the great benefits of anonymity.  I spent 10 years off and on thinking about it, and writing about it in Hive.  But I do also have a sort of five year plan.  The idea that adjusting what you read, reading toward a different existence....changes you, changes your creative trajectory....I find that very interesting, and also, so far, true.

I may have mentioned that I've started sending out my latest manuscript of poems.  Formally very different for me, but also I think the most real stuff I've written, somehow, in some ways. So there is that moment, after you've packaged up your work, when you realize, oh god, what next.  I mean, I do know what's next.  I have my novel about the young woman obsessed with the Museum of bags and purses to return to.  (It's been a year since I've opened the file - maybe this is a good thing).  And a new long prose work that I'm itching to get to, something I've been thinking about for quite a while, and now it's time to begin.

Which I guess is why I'm looking forward to September, back to school.  A certain ease in maintaining the writing rituals.  I've written all summer, and edited etc, but it's been more scattered of course. But I don't let myself off the hook, not even in summer.  And maybe that's my secret to the adhering to the creative habit.  I don't let myself off the hook. Every single day, something, anything, must be done toward the creative work.  Even if it's just reading a poem a few times, or seeking a book that pertains to what I'm writing.  Not much of a secret I suppose, but there it is.  Every day. Don't let yourself off the hook.


  1. Inspiring as always, and the reminder at the end is so timely. Thanks.

  2. Having read your blog for a while now, I must say that I am grateful that you do not ignore your creative drive. Your writing is so natural and focused,and welcomes the readers into your world so well. Your blog is my favourite.

  3. ... the striped shirt in the background of the bottom photo is particularly appealing, for some reason... I guess it makes me think those strawberries are French!

  4. ..and I could recognize the girls' hands anywhere....
    Thanks for the lovely thoughts and images. There's a hook, huh? So, that' the thing....


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