The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp: Chapters 1-4

Summary of the Readings

The books begins with a metaphor from the author’s life. “The White Room” is an empty dance space but it comes to represent the creative process. The creative process must be fueled by more than divine flashes of inspiration. It is not a passive place where an artist goes to receive the tools to create. It is a space that must be worked for. It is earned through continuous effort and dedication.


The process begins with the rituals of preparation. Rituals that signal the beginning (or ending) of a creative process are Pavlovian. They condition the artist to begin their work. This is important because it helps break through the emotional blocks that prevent creativity. It is one tool to overcome the too tired, too busy, too overwhelmed, too whatever feelings that prevent the creative process.


Once the process has begun, it must be maintained by eliminating distractions. Lots of people think they work better when they are multitasking but this really isn’t true most of the time. Art requires a wholehearted, dedicated commitment. The best results will come when we eliminate as much that is “not the art” as is possible.


Creative DNA is the core of our creative selves. There are patterns that exist in our lives but also in our art. Identifying those patterns helps us to understand our own nature and how it contributes to our art. Self-awareness is vitally important to artistic endeavors. We cannot express true things if we are not in touch with our authentic self.


Understanding who we are requires exploration of our present but also of our past. We are, who we are, because of our experiences but memory is not confined simply to events. There is the memory of muscles, of sensuality, of institutions and also the ancient memory that is passed down to us from the collective consciousness of our ancestors. Exploring the depths of our memories and our inner nature gives us better access to our creative DNA.