The creative habit

"It's vital to establish some rituals -- automatic but decisive patterns of behavior -- at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way...Thinking of it as a ritual has a transforming effect on the activity. Turning something into a ritual eliminates the question, Why am I doing this?"

"In the end, there is no one ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn't scare you, doesn't shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it. To get the creative habit, you need a working environment that's habit forming. All preferred working states, no matter how eccentric, have one thing in common: When you enter into them, they impel you to get started.
" -Twyla Tharp, The creative habit, Learn it and use it for life
This book has got me thinking about the physical part of creating a body of work. By this I don't mean doing the work. I mean placing yourself in time and space, on a regular basis, in a way that will optimize the probability of getting something done. In a recent post I wrote about setting some goals for my quilt making over the next two years. One of my goals is to set aside a certain amount of time each week to work. My big push for the next year will be to develop a creative habit. Since I am a morning person this would logically mean working in the morning. I think it would look something like this:
  • 5-7 AM: Get up and do one hour of back strengthening exercises and Pilates on the ball.
  • Eat breakfast
  • Work. This means creative work e.g., designing, dyeing, piecing, or quilting, nothing else. Can probably work for up to four hours depending on what time I get started. Break for lunch.
I could afford to do this three weekdays a week, and one weekend day. It would mean paying someone to play with my kids between 8:00 AM (when my husband leaves for work) and lunchtime, three weekday mornings a week. Then, getting my husband to commit to giving me one weekend morning each week.

In The creative habit, Tharp includes exercises throughout the book. In one exercise she gives a list of questions which are to be answered, quickly and instinctively in order to provide a kind of self-appraisal to the reader of her creative identity, that is, what kind of creative work is the reader most compelled to make, what point of reference is she most inclined to take, from what distance, and so forth. One of the questions was: "What is your ideal creative activity?" For me, two answers came to mind simultaneously: -- creating an image and -- creating a functional object. It occurred to me that here is one of the core reasons that I love to make quilts: because they encompass both of these creative activities. Wish me luck instilling a creative habit.


arlee said...

Luck! :} Getting into a routine does wonders! Even on days when nothing is groundbreaking,little tasks and prepping can fill the time, freeing it later when the creative block is gone.

Brenda Smith said...

Welcome to the Artful Quilters Web Ring!Like you, I love that quilts can be both the manifestation of a creative journey AND functional. Best wishes for developing your creative habit.

juanita sim said...

Thanks Arlee and Brenda. Your words help to cut through the isolation and discouragement I sometimes feel around carving out space in my life for my creative work. I'm glad for your visits.

Kyra said...

I hadn't heard of the Creative Habit - looks like a very interesting book that I'll have to check out!

Best, Kyra

lee said...

How is this project of yours going? For me I found I needed to make something every day, to get the process moving, and that small amounts of time were fine. With practice you can tweak the parameters so it works well for you - length of time, frequency, pick up after yourself or leave things ready for the next step.

juanita sim said...

Hi Lee, I still find that I most often work in fits and starts, once or twice weekly. I have a wonderful work room so I don't have to put things away when I'm finished working, and that's great. But more often than not there just doesn't seem to be much free time in my day, although it is getting better as my daughters get older. Next year they will both be at school the full day, so things will undoubtedly shift then. Currently, I'm taking an art quilting class with 18 other women, taught by a wonderful local quilt artist. The group meets for a full day once a month and lasts for six sessions. It's an opportunity to insert a bit more time for creative work into my life, as I work on assignments, or do readings or write or sketch in my sketchbook between classes. Ideally, I would like to do what you are doing and sneak a bit of work in every day. It seems that, like you, most people find a daily habit yields the best results over the long haul.

Thanks for dropping by and congratulations on your new nephew!