Cultivating the Creative Habit

“The routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration, maybe more.”
Twyla Tharp THE CREATIVE HABIT

I agree with Twyla Tharp.

I think art for some of us has to be a kind of determined,

intentional creative habit that we submit to willingly.

I think habit is the right word for me.

But it is a habit that we have to hook ourselves into.

We have to manufacture our own psychological twitch.

We have to lace our own blood with the gnawing, clawing,

need to sit down and knuckle under.

This is what keeps the writer writing all the way

to the final words THE END.

Inspiration is involved. Magic is part of it.

Sometimes we need that whisper-that breath of the muse to wake

up imagination. After all what good is writing that is not inspired.

But Inspiration disappears pretty quickly when the work gets hard.

When the idea on the page starts to melt into a confused mess.

When fear and self doubt start their yammering.

But you can rely on good old habit and discipline and yes routine.

They will see you through the hard part.

At least that is how it is for some of us.

When we wait for the muse to inspire us–

or we wait for an opportunity–

to be invited, discovered, adored, chosen–

we can wait a long time.

If I relied on those things I wouldn’t write much at all.

Some people say they need a deadline.

I used to say that.

I said it because I thought it was true.

I thought I needed the pressure and the structure to

call forth my undisciplined mind to do my work.

I don’t think it’s true.

It’s just that deadlines scare me into submission.

And that is the key factor folks.

Submission.

Literally.

I need to surrender.

I need to come humbly to the work.

I need to bow my head and submit to the demands of the work.

Think about it.

The deadline causes us to comply.

We obey. We apply ourselves to the task.

You know it’s funny–but when actors and writers

are invited to send an example of

their work–in the actor’s case to audition–

in the writer’s case– to send a manuscript,

these are the words that are used.

CALL FOR SUBMISSION

This is usually interpreted as an opportunity to deliver–

to offer– for consideration.

Don’t be fooled. That is not what it means.

We are being invited to chain ourselves to our heart’s desire and do the work.

I believe that I need to come humbly and submit every day.

It is not my talent or my experience or my great idea–

that will write my play. No it’s my creative habit.

Some days my talent seems negligible, my idea muddy and unfocused.

I can’t rely on such ephemeral notions.

It is the daily submission to my creative habit/discipline/devotion

that will put words on the page.

Resistance as Stephen Pressfield calls it in his amazing books–

The War of Art.
Do the Work,
and Turning Pro

will show up. You can believe that.

Resistance he teaches is the inevitable opposing force to any creative act.

But I am cultivating an addiction to my creativity that will defeat resistance

like a smoking addiction will defeat a smoker’s good sense.

That is why I am sitting here on this brilliantly beautiful day,

tapping away at a blog post that few will

read. I am enslaving myself to my creative habit.

It’s a beautiful sunny day in rainy Vancouver and I know

that soon our endless rainy weather will be upon us–

but here I am writing instead.

I want to be so addicted to this that I will get the

shakes if I don’t write five pages a day on my play.

Oh and speaking of Twyla Tharp here is something of what her

Creative Habit has produced.

keep going

End-of-September“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better”
Samuel Beckett

I am not a person that likes to make mistakes in public.

And I am squeamish about the subject of failure.

But here I am publicly declaring that I have failed more than a few times.

I have given up, quit, stopped, thrown in the towel.

I have been: rejected, dismissed, ignored, misunderstood.

I have faltered, and stumbled and fumbled and messed up in many ways.

And I have lived to tell you about it here.

The reason I do this is simple.

It’s to remind myself to keep going despite failing.

And it’s even more important to know and accept that most assuredly we

will trip over our own limitations

and tumble over our own foolish mistakes.

The thing is to keep going anyway.

This is the only way to defeat the malaise–

to go boldly past the fear–

to leap across the emptiness that will be there.

The thing is to stand courageous in the face of our fear.

And especially — the kind of fear that disguises itself as:

self pity, self doubt, or worse judgement and criticism of

others.

I am learning–to leap past these creativity killers or

go directly to Creativity Jail–a dank depressing place where you

hear recordings of how badly you suck– played in heavy rotation.

The remedy?

Write your play, your novel, your screen play, your poem–

or write something else. Make a list. Write a letter. Just keep going.

Practice. Practice practice.

And remember some fearful part of your self

will try to stop you

because of:

-not enough knowledge.

-not enough imagination.

-not enough time

-not enough credit

-not enough positive feedback

-not enough originality

-not enough energy

-not enough ability

-not enough clarity

-not enough talent

-not enough money

-not enough space

-not enough mental acuity

-not enough privacy

-not enough experience.

-not enough patience.

Don’t listen to that part of yourself.

If you don’t have enough of something

figure out how to get it but keep going.

Keep Going. My motto in life.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes on the subject

You fail only if you stop… Ray Bradbury

“I never know where I am going with a painting. I only know where I’ve been, and frankly, I believe that every painter is in a state of continual failure. The only constant in a painter’s life is failure” William Bailey

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. Truman Capote

and my most favourite of all from Emily Carr

“I thought my mountain was coming this morning. It was near to speaking when suddenly it shifted, sulked, and returned to smallness. It has eluded me again and sits there, puny and dull. Why?”

Oh and by the way. If you want to do yourself a favour immediately to help you keep going–
buy a copy of Stephen Pressfield’s WAR OF ART and DO THE WORK