“Creativity is a habit. And the best creativity is the result of
good work habits.”
Consistently creative. Creatively consistent. I debated between these two headlines, but in the end, I don’t think it matters. The message is really the same: creativity and consistency go hand in hand. At least that’s the premise of a provocative book called The Creative Habit by the internationally acclaimed choreographer, Twyla Tharp. She feels there are two schools of thought about what sparks creativity: 1) the bolt-of-lightning school of inspiration and 2) the hard work-and-preparation school. Tharp comes down firmly on the side of hard work. As the title of her book suggests, she feels that creativity results from daily patterns and routines that, over time, become habits.
Looking up on one of my shelves as I think about this idea, I immediately see a sign with that well-known quote from Thomas Edison: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Clearly, he and Tharp are kindred spirits on the creativity front. While it’s fun to think that creativity springs spontaneously from us – and of course, that does happen – more of often than not, it’s the result of hard work, painful disappointments, stubborn resistance to failure, and sheer grit.
Just think of the creativity it took for Edison and his team of scientists to come up with 10,000 different ways of attempting to produce a light bulb. When Edison was asked how he handled all these failures, in a nutshell, his response was: I didn’t fail 10,000 times, I simply learned 10,000 ways not to create a light bulb.
Whether musicians, magicians, writers or woodworkers, most artists agree that craft and artistry are the result of practice, process, and preparation. As Tharp puts it: “In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative. No one can give you your subject matter, your creative content; if they could, it would be their creation and not yours. But there’s a process that generates creativity – and you can learn it. And you can make it habitual.”