i’ve been hammering my way….

through this book.


it was given to me by my good friend Jim Drake.

i’m somewhat creative, but i’m desiring to develop the rhythms and habits that will most benefit my creative spirit and heart. i have things running in my brain that i can’t seem to get out on paper or in song, or whatever medium needs to express them.

so i’m reading yesterday the chapter called “accidents will happen” and some great things hit for me.

Twyla writes.

“The most productive artists I know have a plan in mind when they get down to work.  They know what they want to accomplish, how to do it, and what to do if the process falls off track.  But there’s a fine line between good planning and overplanning.  You never want planning to inhibit the natural evolution of your work.”

so artistic endeavors aren’t necessarily spontaneous.  they can be, but like she says productive artists have a plan in mind, but they don’t overplan. she goes on to say.

“I began to see that overplanning can be as pernicious as not planning at all.  There’s an emotional lie to overplanning; it creates a security blanket that lets you assume you have things under control, that you are further along than you really are, that you’re home free when you haven’t even walked out the door yet.”

this applies to me as i have some control issues.  i like things to come out right the first time as i am impatient and don’t give myself room to experiment and fail.  i’m praying for and learning more about letting life flow through me.  i’m also learning the little rhythms and disciplines of attempting to create SOMETHING every day.

Tharp next shares several problems that can derail your well-laid plans.


“for every person who inspires you and pushes you in the right direction, there is often another who is ‘missing in action’…no matter how well-intentioned someone else may be, things go wrong… You have to be able to roll with the changes and work with them instead of resisting…Relying too much on others, even in an inevitably collaborative process, MAKES YOU LAZY!”


“another trap is the belief that everything has to be perfect before you can take the next step.  You won’t move on to that second chapter until the first is written, rewritten, honed, tweaked, examined under a microscope, and buffed to a bright mahogany sheen.  You won’t dip a brush in the paint until you’ve assembled all the colors you can possibly imagine using in the course of the project.  I know it’s important to be prepared, but at the start of the process this type of perfectionism is more like procrastination.  You’ve go to get in there and DO…It’s better to be ready to go than to wait until you are perfectly ready….It’s tempting to believe that the quantity and quality of our creative productivity would increase exponentially if only we could afford everything we’ve imagined, but I’ve seen way too many artists dry up the moment they had enough money in the bank.”


“It’s natural to want to establish as many ground rules as possible about form before we get down to work, but you have to choose a form that’s not only appropriate to you but right for your particular idea.”


“…obligation, is not the same as commitment, and it’s certainly not an acceptable reason to stick with something that isn’t working…I should have heeded the CEO who told me, ‘You only need one good reason to commit to an idea, not four hundred.  But if you have four hundred reasons to say yes and one reason to say no, the answer is probably no.’  Whatever your reasons for starting with a project–whether crass or noble–they have to be clear and unencumbered.  Obligation is a flimsy base for creativity.”


“another error of planning is pursue the goal with the wrong materials.”

These mistakes–relying too much on others, waiting for the perfect setup, overthinking structure, feeling obligated to finish what you’ve started, and working with the wrong materials–are DEADLY.  Any one of them will undermine your best efforts.”

i find these hindrances to be so true in my own creative life.  i’ve quite often sought out people to help me move along in my career, rather than look for those who would push me to excellence.  i’ve thought, if only i could get into the studio, or the situation then i could succeed, but all of that has been an excuse not to write and play and create.  am i scared or just lazy?  i seem to sabotage my own efforts to do something i dream about. 

she concludes the chapter with these thoughts.


“Too much planning implies you’ve got it all under control.  That’s boring, unrealistic, and dangerous.  It lulls you into a complacency that removes one of the artist’s most valuable conditions: being pissed!

Creativity is an act of defiance.  You’re challenging the status quo.  You’re questioning accepted truths and principles.  You’re asking three universal questions that mock conventional wisdom:

‘why do I have to obey the rules?’

‘why can’t I be different?’

‘why can’t I do it my way?’

These are the impluses that guide all creative people whether they admit it or not.  Every act of creation is also an act of destruction or abandonment.  Something has to be cast aside to make way for the new.”

what are you going to DEFY today!  oh that we would all go out and create SOMETHING!!!


One comment

  1. Chuck,

    I am so glad to see this book making the rounds among creative types. This is one of 3 books that live on my desk all the time. Twyla Tharp is one of my favorites, being a theatre lover my whole life. I bought the book in New York the day after seeing “Movin’ Out”. I love her style. I hope this becomes as big a help to you as it has to me.

    There is another great book on the creative process. This one is a behind the scenes look at the Cirque du Soleil and their imersive creative culture. It is called “Cirque du Soleil: The Spark – Igniting the Creative Fire that Lives within Us All” by John U. Bacon and Lyn Heward

    We should talk again soon,


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