I just finished The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. I’ve been reading it since late December. It started as a way of trying to go back to basics and establish a more positive routine.
And though it’s been helpful in that regard and routine is the foundation of much of what Tharp talks about, the book goes well beyond on in terms of its advice for all different sorts of creatives.
There’s a great deal of common sense in the book – but the kind of common sense that we allow doubts and distractions to wipe away. Each time I returned to the book, I felt like it was somehow grounding me and reminding me of things that I knew deep down were fundamentally important to my work and my process, but which I’d somehow allowed myself to ignore for days or even weeks at a time.
One chapter that particularly spoke to me was the one entitled “Accidents Will Happen.” In it, Tharp talks about planning but also being present. She writes:
“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.”
Overplanning: it’s something I struggle with. In the past, I’ve been obsessed with structure. I had rules about not being able to draft until I felt I had perfected the plot outline or not allowing myself to deviate from that plot outline mid-draft no matter how much I started questioning it. But I can see now it was just my security blanket, just my way of telling myself I had the control.
I’ve been embracing a different model recently. Lesson Five in Story of a State of Mind is about Plotting and Drifting – but it’s something I’ve been practicing since I started Lesson One on Freewriting. I just start writing, and I allow myself to drift. I go wherever my mind and the writing want to go. I think I even started doing it before I started the SSMind e-course, when sparks for one story or another would come and I just allowed myself to follow them wherever they went. But the difference then was that I told myself that wasn’t the right way, that wasn’t writing from a well-thought through and defined outline.
I haven’t abandoned planning altogether – or outlines. But I’m not a slave to them anymore. As Tharp writes:
“You have to allow for…the accidental spark – and you have to see it as a stroke of luck rather than a disturbance of your perfect scheme.”