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The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

Twyla Tharp, Mark Reiter · 25 HN points · 3 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life" by Twyla Tharp, Mark Reiter.
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Amazon Summary
One of the world’s leading creative artists, choreographers, and creator of the smash-hit Broadway show, Movin’ Out, shares her secrets for developing and honing your creative talents—at once prescriptive and inspirational, a book to stand alongside The Artist’s Way and Bird by Bird. All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit. It is the product of preparation and effort, and is within reach of everyone. Whether you are a painter, musician, businessperson, or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, The Creative Habit provides you with thirty-two practical exercises based on the lessons Twyla Tharp has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career. In "Where's Your Pencil?" Tharp reminds you to observe the world -- and get it down on paper. In "Coins and Chaos," she gives you an easy way to restore order and peace. In "Do a Verb," she turns your mind and body into coworkers. In "Build a Bridge to the Next Day," she shows you how to clean the clutter from your mind overnight. Tharp leads you through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work, and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide-open realm of possibilities can be energizing, and Twyla Tharp explains how to take a deep breath and begin...
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
I'm a big fan of Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit" for one reason: it completely does away with the whole mystification of "creativity" as some gift from a divine source. The plot is simple: creating stuff requires work. Figure out how you work best, then work. End of story.

Anyway, I'm a fan. It cured me of all inspiration-seeking behavior.


Jun 03, 2011 · timr on Working Hard With No Regrets
I think you're creating a false dichotomy. I used to believe that I was the "artist" type, but I was mainly just a procrastinator who didn't have good work habits. I became the "steady progress" type as I took on bigger, harder projects. And honestly, passion is a lot harder to come by when you're working on an intractable bug six years into a long-term project. If you rely on the muses to guide you, you rarely get things done, because that last 1% is rarely ever fun.

Also, you might be surprised by how many artists have a strict routine, and dedicate themselves to a regular pattern of practice. Twyla Tharp wrote an entire book on the subject:

My advice isn't for procrastination in general (e.g. putting off paying bills or mowing the lawn), but for that special kind of procrastination that stops you from getting a business or important project going.

Read "The War of Art" by Steven Pressman and internalize its message. You can finish it in a day. In a nutshell, the book describes procrastination and some other vices as embodiments of Resistance, an evil spirit that plagues anyone who tries to do anything worthwhile.

The strategy Pressman outlines for fighting Resistance dovetails nicely with the techniques described in the other book I'd recommend, which is "The Creative Habit" by Twyla Tharp. With respect to procrastination, Tharp talks about recognizing (1) that creative work is still work and (2) the importance of developing solid daily routines and rituals so that you stop treating your work as something you do only when you're "inspired." She more or less adds details to the Pressman's description of the "hard hat mentality" necessary to get anything done.

The hard hat mentality is that you don't procrastinate on your job or wait until you "want" to do it, you just put the hard hat on every day and do the work so that you can get paid (whatever "paid" means for you). You're doing it not because you're inspired or motivated; you're doing it because it's your job. Period.

Apr 17, 2009 · 22 points, 8 comments · submitted by tokenadult
I bought this book on Merlin Mann's recommendation.


The book is very good and well worth buying. I'd also recommend the War of Art by Pressman. Both of these books are great for cultivating creativity in a systematic way.

I also bought this book on Mann's recommendation. It was very good and thorough. Tharp is a genius and she really helped me focus my creativity more. I highly recommend this book, especially for us who are very left brained.
I really like The War of Art

Talks about resistance, and how it stops most of us from doing what we were meant to do.

Highly recommend.

I second the war of art.. excellent book.

The classic book on creativity is "A Whack on the Side of the Head" by Roger Von Oech ( It is the book to read on creativity, along with his other book "A Kick in the Seat of the Pants"

His card decks (Creative Whack Pack, Innovative Whack Pack and Ancient Whacks of Heraclitus) are also very useful for breaking bad habits, generating ideas, divergent thinking etc. somewhat like Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies cards,which I recommend (

For more practical examples, exercises and inspiration, I like Creative Sparks ( and Caffeine for the Creative Mind (

EDIT: I'd also recommend Organizing from the Right Side of the Brain " for tips on how creative types organize their workspaces. Handy if you're right brained, a pack rat, like "messy" workspaces or dislike the anal-retentiveness of Getting Things Done.

This book was just recommended to me by a software consultant who has a new start-up business. I mention it because there was just another HN thread that asked if creativity can be developed, which is what this author thinks.
I bought this book, skimmed through it, then returned it. I found the fluff to info ratio a little too high for my personal needs.
Cross-posting from other thread but: I have some friends who found inspiration through "The Artist's Way" (some of the exercises, very internal, not easy to do, challenging)

"The Artist's Way is a workbook for anyone who is creative, feels blocked in their creativity or wishes that they were more creative. The book begins with the statement that everyone is creative and has an artist within them, and the point of this course is to recover that inner artist. It is divided into a twelve-week course, with assignments much like any semester-long college class."

Week 1

"This week initiates your creative recovery. You may feel both giddy and defiant, hopeful and skeptical. The focus of establishing a sense of safety will "enable you to explore your creativity with less fear."

+1 The Artists Way

Some of the disciplines she takes you through are tough but rewarding. One of my favorites is writing three pages in a journal per day. At the time it was tough, but it really helped to connect my head with my heart.

Dec 15, 2008 · 3 points, 1 comments · submitted by kirubakaran
Don't you think this is a pretty sloppy submission? You spelled the name of the book wrong, and you haven't even bothered to tell us why this is worthy of the recommendation.
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