I had the pleasure this week of hearing Twyla Tharp, dancer and choreographer, and author of the famous book, “The Creative Habit” speak at Hofstra University. Her book, which I already read, is on many “best books on creativity” lists. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear her speak. She was no nonsense and honest, especially in her advice to the young dancers in the audience.
She began the talk, after introducing herself, by going through the book briefly and summarizing each chapter. Then she asked for questions from the audience, and while some were specific to dance, some were great questions that led to interesting answers – like “How do you know the difference between brainstorming and over thinking things?”
Twyla talked about the time she left NYC and went to a farm, where she and other dancers “worked.” No thought of celebrity or success, or social media (which didn’t exist at the time), but just focusing on dance. I appreciated this reminder that creativity is about putting in the work.
She said, “It takes work to have new ideas.” They don’t just hit you out of nowhere. You have to get going first. You have to be in the habit of “going.” She talked about the “rituals of preparation” and how important they are – whatever they are for you – to get you going. Once you have an idea, you move on from the ritual.
As a painter this all makes sense to me. The importance of sitting down every day to paint. Starting with anything to warm up and get going. I sometimes find the sitting down part is the hardest. Life is always trying to get in the way, even guilt that I should be doing something else. But this thought replaces the guilt, “I am a painter. I paint.”
Learn more about “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp here.
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I originally wrote a version of this post just one month into my creative resolution. Almost two years later, many of these ideas still work for me! The biggest change since then? The inspiration I get from others through social media.
Ten ways to find inspiration for your creative projects:
- Scroll through your feed or do a search on WordPress, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. – there is so much to look at and be inspired by!
- Take a walk. Whether it is a walk in a nature preserve, along the beach, or through the neighborhood, you’ll notice things you’d never see driving by. And if you see something inspiring – take a picture!
- Find a photo. Look in magazines, catalogs, or your own photo library. Keep photos you like in a folder or hang them on a corkboard. Search Google or any social media. Virtually save links using tools like Pocket or pin stuff to your Pinterest boards. See mine here!
- Go to the library – where there is an endless supply of art and how-to books, and magazines on any subject.
- Learn about other artists. I love reading about other creative people, no matter how different their craft is. Each artist’s creative process, and how they got their start is so interesting. (Two great podcasts for this: What’s your story and While She Naps.)
- Just start. Once I get started drawing or painting, the ideas come. Sometimes ideas come to me, by just setting up!
- Keep a list of project ideas. I keep a notebook with an ongoing list of ideas and refer to them when I’m stuck.
- Look through old sketchbooks. I try to keep everything, because I enjoy seeing the progress I have made. Sometimes I find the start of an idea.
- Have coffee with friends. Find a creative friend, or two, and get together with them. When you share your ideas with others, you can get great feedback, and different points of view.
- Sit outside. I am so inspired by the Seasons – Spring flowers, the beach in the Summer, Fall leaves. I’m even inspired by the bare trees against the Winter sky.
Ideas can come at any time from unlikely places. Soak them up! I’ve gotten ideas for paintings while watching TV, eating breakfast, etc.
Although the other day, my breakfast – a sliced apple, inspired a new art project, ideas are not always so easy to come by. I sometimes get frustrated, when I want to work on a project, but don’t know what to do, or where to start. Here are some things that help me, when I have “artist’s block.”
- Take a walk. Whether it is a walk in a nature preserve, along the beach or through the neighborhood, walks can help you see things, you normally don’t have time, to notice. Take a picture! I’ve created several projects based on things I’ve seen on walks – a weathered fence, a zigzagging beach fence, a shell. On a route through the neighborhood, I see an old weathered garage, that reminds me of a barn. I’m often tempted to draw or paint it and add in a horse.
- Go to the library – an endless supply of art and how-to books, and magazines. I have to admit, the library is one of my favorite places. I often go there and sit down with my favorite magazine, “Country Living.” It definitely inspired me, during my “rooster” phase. Why else, would a girl, from the suburbs, paint and draw so many roosters!
- Find a photo. Look in magazines, catalogs, the internet or your own photo library. We can’t always photograph, every idea we have. Stock photography websites, allow you to “search” for photos of specific things. Tear out and keep photos, for future projects, when you see something that catches your eye.
- Read about other artists (in books, magazines and the internet). I love reading about other creative people, no matter how different their craft is. There is something inspiring about people, who focus and succeed at what they love. I aspire to be that type of person. I love learning about each artist’s creative process.
- Just start. Sometimes it helps, to just get started. Start doodling or painting and see what evolves.
- Keep a list of ideas. Without lists, I would forget all my ideas. I recently came across a list, that included the word “jellyfish.” It reminded me of the cool jellyfish I took photos of, at an aquarium, and wanted to paint.
I make lists on scrap paper all the time, but now I’m trying to use a notebook. This way, all my lists are together and I won’t lose any great ideas. I often thumb through my notebook, to look back on what I’ve written. I feel very accomplished, when I can check off a project I’ve completed.
- Look through old sketchbooks. I try to keep everything, because I enjoy seeing the progress I have made through the years. Sometimes I find an incomplete project or an idea, that I never fully developed.
- Have coffee with friends. I am lucky enough to have two great neighbors. I always feel inspired after getting together with these special friends. I hope I inspire them, and encourage them, half as much as they do me! They give me the positive reinforcement, I sometimes need. (Anyone out there want to leave a comment? please? lol!) Find a creative friend, or two, and get together with them. When you share your ideas with others, you can get great feedback, from different points of view.
- Go shopping! Walking through a home store, art store, or even a garage sale can inspire me. Whether I get a specific project idea or just get excited to work on something, it feels good.
- Go outside. When the weather is nice, I often sit outside, and sketch leaves, flowers, etc.
- Keep your eyes open. Ideas can come, at any time, from unlikely places. While watching TV, I saw a painting of an orange slice, on Modern Family (in Gloria and Jay’s house) and was inspired. I decided to work on an orange slice of my own, which led to limes and, currently, an apple slice.
It’s funny, sometimes there isn’t enough time, for all the ideas and projects I want to work on! How do you come up with ideas?