Thursday, January 7, 2010

walking along the road to creative habit & an exercise

As I've mentioned a time or two recently, I am currently reading "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life" by Twyla Tharp. Someone - I can't remember who right now - mentioned this book. Although I had sworn to myself to not purchase another writing book until I had finished at least reading through all that I already have (eliminating the earlier requirement to work through all the exercises!), yes, indeed, I bought it. Something about it called to me and I am still reading it. Slowly. Between work and sleep. Between work and workout. Page by page or by paragraph. Nearly every time I open the pages, there is something relevant to me - something calling out to me to pay attention.

Today's tidbit led me to an interesting exercise and a bonus of a statement that makes so much sense.

Ms. Tharp wrote about her process during work on a project and how she looked at her distractions and how to eliminate them.

She wrote:
"I want to place myself in a bubble of monomaniacal absorption where I'm fully invested in the task at hand." [pg 26]
Oh, I think I would like a shot at being in that place. Tonight, I am sitting in a 24-hour coffee shop with a writer friend. We were talking about time and writing. He has friends who are on sabbatical for six months; one of them to write a novel. Lovely. He said it would take him about four hours to adapt to having "nothing to do" for six months, except write and work on his house and take care of his baby. I said I would probably need two weeks to adapt to the change. I would be disoriented at first, overwhelmed with the expanse of time and choices to fill it with. I wondered how long before I could settle into a habit of writing and being content. Still, I'd like to try. Six months might be a little long for me to start with. Maybe I should start with two weeks. No, too short. A month would definitely push my comfort level. Now to round up some funding to do it with. A month off work to rest and write and explore and write and sleep and eat and walk and walk and write. I think I could do it.

In the book, Ms. Tharp goes on to list her own "perennially tempting distractions." She lists four and explains exactly what she means: Movies, Multitasking, Numbers, Background Music. These are the things that can interfere with her process and draw her away from her creativity.

Although I don't find background music to be a distraction for me (just the opposite - it often masks out the sounds of life all around me and lets me focus more what is right in front of me - unless it's the radio, like here in the cafe right now; the radio is distracting, which is why I don't listen to the radio while I write), one of her others did catch my "ah-ha" attention. For those who know me, you will not be surprised when I tell you that Multitasking rang some bells.

About multitasking, she said,
"In an accelerated, overachieving world, we all take pride in our ability to do two or more things at the same time: working on vacation, using an elegant dinner to hammer out a business deal; reading while we're groaning on the StairMaster. The irony of multitasking is that it's exhausting; when you're doing two or three things simultaneously, you use more energy than the sum of energy required to do each task independently. You're also cheating yourself because you're not doing anything excellently. ..."
You're also cheating yourself because you're not doing anything excellently.

Ah. I am a queen of multitasking and wear my crown proudly. Um. Ah. Let me think on it. That sentence in particular hit home.

Ms. Tharp challenged herself to give up her four major distractions for a week during work on a project. To see how her energy and creativity changed.

I don't feel as ready to take on four obstacles at once, as she did. And, no, I won't be eliminating multitasking from my life at this point. I have too much going on to do that *grin*. But I will write that post out where I see it so I can think on it more. I have heard from a couple of other sources that the time and energy required to complete multitasking tasks is more than the individual parts would be separately. Now here, again.

EXERCISE: So, my challenge to you and to myself: identify four of your own obstacles to creativity - your personal distractions. Then select one of them and plan to eliminate it for one week. See what happens. Plan it for a week when you can also be working on a creative project; for me that will be writing. If you feel up to it, eliminate two. Or, why not, go for all four, if you want. For me, I think I'll go with one the first go 'round.


  1. Another great exercise, Dot!

    That sounds like a great book, too.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Christi!

    It is a great book so far. I believe in the creative process being similar - if not the same - at least in essence across any discipline. At the same time, in the books I have read so far, it seems to be difficult for people to talk about it in a more generalized application. She seems to have found that delicate balance between talking about the creative process and exploration, while using her own lens of dance and choreography. I hope that holds, because I am loving what she wrote. And, while I love to watch dance of many types, I watch it from my body and my emotions because I don't know the "how" of dance, the technical aspects, the theories.

    I believe it will hold true from everything I've read so far!