8 Things I Learned about Being a Writer from Twyla Tharp

Once upon a time I had a blog about learning how to write. This is because, as you might guess, I wanted very badly to be a writer. I also was fascinated by anyone who gave wisdom that went against the grain.

So when I was cleaning up some old articles from The Iceberg Project's site, I was delighted to find this gem about The Creative Habit.

"In order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative."

I learned about Twyla Tharp from the lovely Danielle LaPorte in her Firestarter Sessions when creativity and distractions were mentioned.

Twyla Tharp is hardcore. When it comes to her art, she does not play around, which explains her incredible success in choreography. She will force you to examine what you're currently doing to cultivate your art, and then she'll let you know what you need to be doing to become masterful at your art.

& who doesn't need a kick in the butt every once in a while?

When I read the book with the intent to become a better writer, here are the pieces of advice that I snatched up:

  1. Create a ritual before writing: Light incense, pray, meditate, open your windows. Do whatever it takes for you to get in your delicious writing zone to create great work. Do this consistently.
  2. List your fears about becoming a writer: List them, and then refute them. It's better to get them out in the open and use your own writing skills to persuade yourself that they're irrelevant.
  3. Always keep a journal & a pen with you: I carry a pen & a notebook with me at all times because my incredible selective memory is not under my control. So, I have two mini Moleskine notebooks for when I go out with friends (they fit nicely in girly clutches), one small Moleskine for my bag, and then my journal for bigger, more descriptive thoughts. Good dialogue, interesting human quirks, and interesting personalities are too valuable to lose because I didn't have a notebook with me.
  4. Study every writer that you love: Become very familiar with their technique, word choice, and sentence structure. Twyla even talks about one novelist who re-typed books of his favorite authors to really understand them.
  5. Create an archiving file for each story: I'm pretty simple. I use my portable filing cabinet to archive my story research, the drafts, and the final drafts. Each folder is a different story. If I happen to have research that won't fit in folders, I get a shoebox or a box to store them.
  6. Know the spine of your story: This concept is phenomenal. "The spine is the intention to tell a story." What is your story based on? Stick to your spine while you're writing because it helps you remember where you began and look forward to where you want to go.
  7. Develop your skills: First, figure out what you're good at. Then, look at what needs to be developed. For me, it meant observing the world with a keener eye, refining my use of transitions between scenes, and finishing stories. Then, actually work on developing these by creating challenges for yourself.
  8. When you're in a rut admit it to yourself and then move on: Look at old stories, undeveloped characters, and journals for inspiration. Do some Short Writing Assignments. Go for a walk or six. Do whatever it takes. Writer's block is simply a block and will only exist if you let it. Carry that thought with you.

There are at least fifteen great exercises for developing and cultivating creativity in this book that Twyla has used her entire professional life. These will transform how you view creativity, and your perspective about what your art means to you will shift.

I'll leave you with this:

"When creativity has become your habit: when you've learned to manage time, resources, expectations, and the demands of others: when you understand the value and place of validation, continuity, and purity of purpose--then you're on the way to an artist's ultimate goal: the achievement of mastery."

Find the book here: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

What did you think of her book? Do you have any exercises that you use to enhance creativity? Leave a comment below!


Hi, I’m Cher!

I write about the place where business + social responsibility meet. When I'm not researching whatever my latest obsession is, you can find me re-watching Remember the Titans, posting on Insta @___whatthehale, or hiking somewhere in the PNW. If you're interested in working with me on a marketing or PR campaign, I do that, too.

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