Saturday, November 24, 2012

Creativity, Preparation, and Hard Work

Book review of The Creative Habit - Learn it and use it for life by Twyla Tharp (published 2003 by Simon & Schuster).

Creativity comes from preparation and hard work, Twyla Tharp tells us. All of us, including those of us in the software development industry, can learn the skills needed to become more creative.

Twyla Tharp draws on her 35-year career as a dancer, choreographer, and businessperson, and tells us how we can learn to be more creative in our work.

Whether you're illustrating a blog posting, crafting a web page, designing iPhone/iPad apps, writing a sales presentation for your desktop/laptop application, or writing a news release for your latest software release, you can benefit from the advice in "The Creative Habit."

"There are no natural geniuses," Twyla tells us. "The best creativity is the result of good work habits."

This book is full of practical advice, real-world examples that translate easily into the world of application development, and hands-on exercises that nudge us to think more creatively.

For the past 35 years, Twyla Tharp has been recognized as a great dancer and choreographer. She's known for her creativity.

When planning the creation of a new dance for her company, she employs the metaphor of walking into a big, empty room and figuring out how to craft a new, exciting dance. Twyla's world is full of people with high expectations - the dancers, the financial backers, the theater owners, and the public, just to name a few. And her task is to create something new and original, from scratch.

It's not all that different for those of us in the software development industry. Every week, we have to sit down in a quiet, empty room and figure out how to design a new application that will be seen as new and innovative. Or design a new blog or website, Or write a sales presentation that will turn prospects into buyers.

Twyla believes that creativity requires routine and habit. Creativity is the result of hard work, not some type of divine inspiration. Twyla believes that creativity is the result of following a process. If we follow the process long enough, it becomes a habit.

Twyla's ideas about creativity differ from the widely-held notion that each instance of creativity is a unique, difficult-to-explain occurrence. Twyla thinks that the repetition and routine of developing a habit can actually result in creative output. In addition, she believes that everything that we do in our lives can feed and strengthen our creativity. We simply have to develop the sensitivity to recognize creative opportunities that occur all the time. We have to build the habits to take advantage of these creative opportunities, and use them to our advantage.

"The Creative Habit" is inspirational. It teaches us to enhance our creativity. And it does a lot to eliminate the fear of walking into an empty room, or staring at a blank sheet of paper, or at a blank tablet screen.

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