I just finished Twyla Tharp’s book on the Creative Habit and found a few tips that have been helping me get down to business.
The first is to define for yourself a Start-Up-Ritual. For Tharp, a choreographer by trade, she simply gets into the cab at 5:30am every day. What happens when she gets to her studio is another matter. For me I’ve been brewing up a mug of hot water with lemon. Some of you will pick coffee but that’s a different kind of trigger for me.
The second is to Know Your Perspective. This one blew my mind because of the specific example she gave: are you someone who goes up close to a piece of art at a museum? Or someone who loves the beautiful tell? Yes, yes I am! According to Tharp, this means that for me the world is explored through its details (which, btw, is not the same as detail oriented). There are other people who are more intrigued by the abstractions. Knowing which one you are will help guide your work.
Then there’s one I usually do by matter of compulsion: Read Archaeologically. This month I’ve been applying the technique to Jennifer Egan, since I loved A Visit From The Goon Squad. Her other books, The Keep and Look at Me share with each other a kind of tricky structure. I’ve also found that her early story collection, Emerald City, exposes the core areas of interest that become both more subtle and developed in her work over time. Last up with be Invisible Cities, Egan’s first novel, now over twenty years old.
Tharp’s idea of making each part of a dance about one thing is so useful when thinking about writing chapter and also when managing life in general. When I start to feel frazzled, I think to myself now: What is Today Good For? The same came be said of working on my novel, each time I sit down. If I focus on one moment I want to get across I’m more successful than if I’m trying to solve bits and pieces of the books problem all in one sitting.
Finally, and most forgivingly: Ruts Happen. Now when I miss a day of writing, or maybe two, I just accept that for whatever reason I couldn’t get myself to get down to business. It’s not a matter of time or inspiration, it’s a matter of stagnation. And the best way to get out of a rut is to know you’re in one.
Ok, that’s my list! Got any tips for creativity that you’ve discovered works for you? Write ’em up and post ’em here.