working hard or hardly working?

I’ve been reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit on the recommendation of the Internet’s beloved Merlin Mann (take the time to watch the video). Tharp is a renowned choreographer, but the book has little do do with dance (except in reference to her medium and her creative problems, but not really the point). Every kind of work is creative work.

Ok. I can’t convince you that working at McDonald’s is creative. You’re right. Some work is just work, or some might say a form of slavery.

But good work? Work that benefits the worker, the employer, and the world at large? That’s always creative work, whether it’s art or science or writing or engineering. This is why I take issue with the term “creative” as a noun. As in, some are “creatives” and therefore special in some way. Newsflash. Everyone who is not brain damaged is creative. And the only things preventing us from using our creativity to its full extent are fear and money.

Yeah. Not easy to get around. Money.

Fear, on the other hand, is a sneaky bastard, but not impossible to defeat.

But back to Twyla. She is a proponent of HARD WORK as the foundation of creativity. Not only hard work, but daily ritual. Creativity is not about talent, it is about creating something, and we all create something, even if it’s something as banal as a sandwich… It’s still creativity.

One exercise from Twyla’s book involves writing down what you’re afraid of. What is it?

Rejection? Poverty? Mockery? People will no longer love you? You have nothing to say? No talent?

Whatever it is, it’s very likely to be a wall you are building to keep yourself SAFE. Safe is not a bad thing, but is safe the way to live? It’s kind of a personal choice. There’s no definitive answer, and there’s no shame in being safe. But if there’s something you yearn to do, and you’re afraid to try… what happens?

Compulsive consumption (of stuff, food, media, drink, distraction). Mental hamster wheels. Eventual depression and disease. That’s what fear does. And the only cure for fear is DOing.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. lydia says:

    Wow Kitty,
    I have been living way too safely. Every decision I make is to keep myself safe. When people ask why I don’t sell my work, or do certain things, my answer is because I am scared, I don’t know what I am scared of because I am scared of seeing what it is. I feel like one of the three little pigs with the wolf knocking at my door.


    1. kittyireland says:

      It’s easy to let fear rule, but sometimes it’s surprisingly easy to get over once you start doing what you want to do. Like Nike says….


  2. Beth says:

    I needed to read this today, Kitty – thanks. I definitely have fears about my own long-lost painting habit. Fear is crippling. I’m getting this book today.

    (I find it amusing that one of the “Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)” is about Britney Spears getting in shape.)


    1. kittyireland says:

      I know – I found that amusing too. I hope you enjoy the book!


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