Archive for November 28th, 2010

“It’s going to happen sometimes:  Despite all the good habits you’ve developed, the preparation rituals, the organizational tools, the techniques for scratching out pre-ideas and actual ideas, there will come a time when your creativity fails you.”  Twyla Tharp goes on to differentiate between a rut and a groove and how to diagnose the problem you’re facing before you slide into the pit of depression.

A former painting student of mine emailed me recently with the complaint that she’s stuck, can’t do anything on that canvas.  I recommended Twyla Tharp’s book, “The Creative Habit,” which guides the artist through the diagnosis of the problem in a very level-headed way.  She asks, is it a failure of skill, of concept, or judgment;  or are you stuck through  repetition or from denial?  Each of these topics is discussed in practical terms and in spirited language, without any glibness.  Then, what can you do to get out of your rut?  I’m resisting the temptation here of quoting particularly pithy sentences because there’s no instant fix. There’s not one quote that will illuminate you and set the juices flowing again.  Art making is basically serious, often painful, and most of the time–difficult.   The book as a whole—and it has to be taken as a whole—is a guide for putting something together, in this case, the creative process.  I recommend that every artist, in whatever medium, make a serious study of “The Creative Habit.”

While we’re on the topic, I’ll make two more recommendations:

Another book, “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland, 1993.  118 pages.

And a documentary, “Inspirations” by Michael Apted, 1997.  140 minutes.

For videos on Twyla Tharp, you may want to start with


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