My Creative Process: From Stress to Spark

In her book, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp discusses her creative process. She emphasizes that people are not simply born creative, but rather that creativity is a skill that people can develop and refine over time.

Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp

“In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative.”

Tharp’s creative process is extremely methodical. She believes that taking time each day and setting a goal will allow creativity to prosper. By preparing yourself for the creative process, you are able to see, retain, and use your inspiration.

“The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more. And this routine is available to everyone.”

I can’t say that my creative process is necessarily a strict routine. In reality, it’s more of a spastic journey of mental breakdowns and creative breakthroughs. However, in my own way, I tend to follow a pattern when trying to spark the cartoon lightbulb hovering over my head. Whether I’m writing a paper, a blog post, or even an important e-mail, I always begin with a blank screen. Then, typically I sit there – staring – for what usually feels like three years asking myself why I didn’t start this earlier, or how I’m ever going to finish.

When writing a post for my travel blog, I like to look at pictures from my trips to jog my memory of what happened, and what I want stories to share with my readers. This is usually (ok, always) a lot easier, and a lot more fun than writing a 10-page paper about the rise and fall of some ancient empire that doesn’t even exist anymore. So, when I have to write about something that doesn’t immediately get my creative juices flowing, I take some time to clear my head (most likely after I call my mom in the midst of a panic attack). This usually involves going on a run, drinking a hot cup of tea, turning on Bon Iver Pandora, and snuggling under my favorite blanket. Once my head is clear, I try and organize my thoughts. I read prompts, take notes, and jot down ideas for what I’m going to write.

Before I can create, I have to clear my mind

Before I can create, I have to clear my mind

It’s important for me to be in a mode of total focus. And as much as I hate it, I need to be in an environment with no distractions. This usually means going to the top floor of a dark and dismal library or an empty classroom. Once I get in the zone, where I think about nothing but the task before me, that’s when I am most productive. And while my best ideas may not always come to me when I’m in this environment, it sets the stage for effective, and if I’m lucky, creative, writing.

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