I have been re-reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit for two reasons — it is one of the ten books that stand the test of time, and the work of preparation I have been doing for my talk at #dareconfUSA, make learning a habit and discover new opportunities.
There are two kinds of books I hold onto:
- those with a personal and special dedication from the author
- those where I wrote furiously in the margins
A book that teaches you something different, that literally rewires your operating system is worth holding on to, because you have the opportunity to build those ideas into your own actions.
Tharp explains how she develops her work from the spine, which she defines as the statement you make to yourself outlining your intentions for the work. From this definition I wish we had more spine and fewer statements in our work lives. Because this is the structure she uses to draw intention — the audience may infer it or not.
In other words, this is your private tool to answer one key question — What am I trying to say?
We talk about attention a lot in business circles, yet there is another element of engagement that we overlook. That is energy. Both energy and time are finite resources; conserving them is very important, says Tharp. Economy of purpose and execution is an actionable way to think about simplicity.
I found the section on metaphor in the exercises section of the chapter useful. You will likely do as well.
What is your Metaphor Quotient?
Tharp says that developing a spine is the first step in building your metaphor quotient, the creative process own IQ. Comparing is the engine that drives metaphor. Her exercises (abbreviated/edited):
1. Visual translation — note how many images and objects you see in three minutes of cloud-gazing.
2. Metaphor as object or task — try to find a rhythm of the process while doing a mindless chore like washing the dishes. Hum it, name it, then find other chores/tasks with a similar rhythm.
3. Metaphor as aural and visual stimulus — distill a mechanical sound and mimic it. This reminds me of the VW windshield wipers commercial.
4. Metaphor as faith — what images come to mind when focusing on superstition like knocking on wood to bring luck?
5. Metaphor as theater — by studying a word’s linguistic roots trace how far it takes you. She uses the example of the word tragedy… and how that makes her think of goats. You will figure out why if you do the exercise.
6. Metaphor as curating — find works of art you can connect together. They are more mundane items, I’ve been doing this by cataloging my Sunday links under themes (for example how to conquer information overload.)
7. Metaphor as empathy — by turning Narcissus around and try to see another person in your image.
All those comparing images for differences in objects exercises in the crossword puzzles do pay off.