5 Tips to Maximize the Discipline of Creativity

“The one thing that creative souls around the world have in common is that they all have to practice to maintain their skills. Art is a vast democracy of habit.” -Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit is one of my favorite books. Even in the title, it lets you in on a little secret: creativity does not come in bursts of inspiration, it comes in daily discipline and habits.

Today I want to focus on five tips I learned on the preparation and inspiration of creativity from Tharp’s book.

5 Tips to Maximize the Discipline of Creativity

1. Learn from the greats. 

Mozart said: “People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.”

Read biographies of people who you'd like emulate. What are they reading? What are the trends in your industry? Pay attention to the work of people you admire.

2. Implement a morning ritual that you can count on to ignite your creativity and focus. 

“Although he was not physically fit, Beethoven would start each day with the same ritual: a morning walk during which he would scribble into a pocket sketchbook the first rough notes of whatever musical idea inevitably entered his head. Having done that, having limbered up his mind and transported himself into his version of a trance zone during the walk, he would return to his room and get to work.”

What do you need to do to maximize your creativity each day? Eat breakfast before you work? Listen to a certain style of music? Take a quick stroll around the block? Determine what you need to do to focus and open your mind to what you need to create today.

3. Keep a notebook with you (or the notes app on your iPhone) to jot down ideas when they come to you.

“I’m often asked, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ This happens to anyone who is willing to stand in front of an audience and talk about his or her work. The short answer is: everywhere. It’s like asking 'Where do you find the air you breathe?' Ideas are all around you.”

Always be ready for new ideas to come together. And never trust your memory. Write it down, write it down, write it down.

4. Prepare daily. And make peace with your lack of control.

"Habitually creative people are, in E.B. White’s phrase, 'prepared to be lucky.' The keywords here are 'prepared' and 'lucky.' They’re inseparable. You don’t get lucky without preparation, and there’s no sense in being prepared if you’re not open to the possibility of a glorious accident...Some people resent the idea of luck. Accepting the role of chance in our lives suggests that our creations and triumphs are not entirely our own, and that in some way we’re undeserving of our success. I say, Get over it. This is how the world works. In creative endeavors luck is a skill."

Tharp said this on trusting too much in planning every detail:

“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.”

5. Put in the work every day.

“80% of success in show business is showing up.” -Woody Allen

The same is true in all creative fields. Put the time in. Do your due diligence. Wrack up your 10,000 hours. Be consistent and the reward will come.

Have you received any advice on creativity and work that has stuck with you? Share it in the comments.

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10 Tips to Boost Creativity the Einstein Way

Ever since I was tagged a “creative” person as a kid, I’ve been drawn to the concept and study of creativity. Twyla Tharp’s the Creative Habit is one of my favorite books. I even put it in the name of my company. I recently read an article about Einstein’s perspective on creativity. He called it combinatory play.

Maria Popova phrases Einstein’s perspective like this:

“Creativity is combinatorial: Alive and awake to the world, we amass a collection of cross-disciplinary building blocks — knowledge, memories, bits of information, sparks of inspiration, and other existing ideas — that we then combine and recombine, mostly unconsciously, into something ‘new.’ From this vast and cross-disciplinary mental pool of resources beckons the infrastructure of what we call our ‘own’ ‘original’ ideas.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks that no great idea comes out of thin air. None of us can really take full credit for anything! Great ideas come from putting pieces together. Someone else’s comment here, someone else’s example there, and voila a new idea is formed that seems obvious based on putting the other two ideas together.

HSL Creative was founded after putting several ideas together. To me, it seemed like an obvious next step.

Yesterday I toured Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. The tour guide explained that while people think of Jefferson as an inventor he was really an innovator. He took other inventions and improved them. Combinatory play at it’s finest.

Here are 10 tips to incite more combinatory play in your life. I dare you to try at least 3 this week:

1. Explore an aisle of the bookstore that you don’t usually frequent.

2. Try out a new recipe with ingredients you've never used.

3. Make plans for lunch or coffee with someone who is not in your regular circles.

4. Subscribe to BrainPickings.

5. Sit in on your library’s book club meeting.

6. Listen to a public lecture at a local college.

7.  Ask this question at the dinner table: If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do with your life?

8. Watch a TedTalk.

9. Read a biography of someone that interests you who you've not previously studied.

10. Post a question on your Facebook status.

I encourage you to carry a notebook (or just your notes app in your iPhone) with you throughout the week and jot down ideas that come to you. When you’re open to connecting new dots, you are likely to do just that.