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Twyla Tharp is an American dancer and choreographer who has made groundbreaking theatrical work for most of her life. At almost eighty, she continues to produce art, to create dance and spectacle and to reflect on creativity. In her book, The Creative Habit, Tharp muses on the importance of being curious about your own creative process – your creative habits. Ask what has always sparked your interest, she says, and you will find the template to help you keep creating. To demonstrate this, she runs through what she calls a ‘Creative Autobiography’ – asking questions of herself, her dancers and her collaborators.

Curiosity. Obsession. They can be similar. I remember telling my sister (a very practical nurse) over lunch that I had become obsessed with freediving, with everything about it. I couldn’t stop watching freediving videos, reading about blood shift, pinning images of deep dives on my walls, practising breathhold….

“You know,” I said, “How it is when you get obsessed with something.”
My dear sister looked at me for a long moment and then shook her head. No, she didn’t know about that kind of obsession. But to paraphrase Tharp, that kind of obsession (which led to my novel Storm and Grace) is the kind of focused curiosity that drives the creative habit.

Take some time today to reflect on your creative autobiography, the images and habits that drive you and which can sustain you if you trust them. I’m adapting and amending some of Twyla Tharp’s questions below. As with all of these Immersion reflections, these are for your own self alone. They are private and a guide to reconnect you to your creative depth. So take your time. Tell yourself the truth. There is no audience.

  1. What is your first memory of being inspired? Where were you? What happened? Try to think about the precise circumstances that surrounded you – where were you?
  2. What feeling did you have with that inspiration, in your body?
  3. What did you do with that inspiration afterwards, if anything?
  4. What is your first memory of being creatively curious? What happened before and after?
  5. What ideas, people, concepts or stories obsess you now or in the past?
  6. What artists do you admire most?
  7. Why are these particular people your role models?
  8. What do you and your role models have in common?
  9. What is the thing that most excites you?
  10. What is the thing that most brings you joy?
  11. What qualities can you not abide in other people?
  12. What do you most admire in yourself?
  13. What was the best idea you’ve ever had?
  14. What made it great?
  15. Did you bring that idea to life? How? Can you connect the dots that led you to the idea?
  16. What are three ideas you’ve had in the past that excited you?
  17. What are three ideas you abandoned? Why did you abandon them?
  18. What is your idea of creative mastery?
  19. What is your creative ambition?
  20. What are the obstacles to achieving this ambition?
  21. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?
  22. What are your daily habits? What patterns do you repeat?
  23. Describe your first successful creative act.
  24. Describe your second.
  25. Compare them.
  26. Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?
  27. When you work, do you love the process or the result?
  28. What is your ideal creative activity?
  29. What is your greatest dream?
  30. Which of your answers would you most like to change?

 Sit with your responses. Let your curiosity about your own creative habit guide you.


Today’s prompt:

Write a morning habit in a new place