More on The Creative Habit

I really need to think, or at least talk, less about Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. It’s a great book, though, and one everyone who does anything creative should really spend some time with.

I have bunches of notes, some of which I’ll draw on throughout the semester, from the multiple times I’ve read this book. (Yeah, it’s kind of addicting …) I’ve never done this, but I’m going to post some of my raw notes here, let me know if this is of any value to you or there’s something here you want to talk about more. Some of this is lifted straight from the book, some of it is my interpretation of it. Remember, she’s talking a lot about dancers and choreographers, but so much of it applies to what we do.

So, my raw-ish notes …

Establishing routines – creativity isn’t something you do when assigned to do something, it happens when you are prepared for it. Some writers will only work in the morning, not dealing with the details of their life until they have hit some goal. As photojournalists, our routine has to be to be prepared. As photographers, we must make time to practice. 

The ritual is carrying the camera – not shooting. It means you’ve committed to being prepared, committed to the idea of making an image that day. And it’s not carrying it in a bag – it’s having it out, having it on, having it ready. 

Athletes and triggering rituals – golfer walking along the course, talking with the caddy. But when she approaches the ball, the movements are ritualistic. Same for basketball and baseball – the ritual brings comfort, it eliminates stress, it helps to focus. 

Maybe photograph the same thing every day? Same way? Just to prove you can still make a frame. Call it a lens or shutter check, but make the frame. Feel the controls, hear the shutter slap. 

Avoid multitasking. Listening to music is disrespectful of the creators’ intentions. They crafted that tune or melody, they poured their heart and soul into the performance. Why aren’t you listening as intently? Focusing on one thing brings clarity to that one thing. It lets us see it, hear it, feel it in a pure sense. 

Where’s your “Pencil?” – Novelist Paul Auster tells the story of being taken to a ball game as a child. He saw his idol, Willie Mays, outside the locker room and asked if he could please have an autograph. Mays said, “Sure, kid, sure. You got a pencil?” Auster didn’t. Neither did his parents or anyone else around him. After waiting patiently, Mays said, “Sorry, kid. Ain’t got no pencil, can’t give no autograph.” He’s never left home without a pencil since then. 

What is your pencil? What is the one tool that feeds your creativity? That is essential and leaves you feeling naked and unprepared? 

Build up a tolerance for solitude. “Alone is a fact, a condition where no one else is around. Lonely is how you feel about that.” Try being silent in your mind, then letting your mind wander for 5 minutes, then 10. When do the ideas start to come? What is that time for you?  

Through what lens do you see the world? Ansel Adams was through a wide angle, a wide, spacious view. Who is through a macro? A normal lens? 

Raymond Chandler, first Philip Marlowe book, The Big Sleep: It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. It was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars. 

Maybe sharing that isn’t such a good idea … I use a program called Evernote to keep all of my ideas in one place. It lets me bookmark web pages, keep photos, write notes, drop them in notebooks of various subjects and tag data. All searchable and I can access it from my laptop, desktop, phone and tablet because it all syncs to the cloud.

That’s just part of my entry from the book.

If you haven’t, you should probably take a look at my New Year’s Day post from the site, may give you some ideas for your local journalism pieces.


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