Thursday, February 3, 2011

Book Review:The Creative Habit

Book Review written by Graduate Student Beth D. Slazak

This book is written for the average reader who is interested in creativity, and encouraging it in their lives. It is written in a very smooth manner, which makes it easy for the lay person to follow. The author draws from her wealth of personal examples to illustrate her points. At the end of each chapter she has a workbook-type section with activities to increase the reader’s creativity “muscle”.

In her first chapter, “I Walk into a White Room”, she discusses the fears and impediments people have when facing a situation that could benefit from creativity. “Some people find this moment – the moment before creativity begins – so painful that they simply cannot deal with it. (p.5)” This is a situation that is universal, an overwhelming, daunting feeling, which paralyzes. This may explain why different problem solving tools resonate so strongly with people. They are actionable steps to lead to a solution. Her solution is to employ routine and habit. She recommends good work ethic. Authors call this the BIC method, short for “Butt in Chair”. The best way to produce quality work is to produce any work, and lots of it. Good stuff can be found in it somewhere. She claims that in order to be creative you have to prepare to be creative by spending the necessary time and effort working. There are no short cuts.

To “Harness Your Memory”, chapter four, is to generate new connections to all the old information that you already know. Her theory is reminiscent of forced connections and lateral thinking, and those are both good creative tools to work with, especially when one is hitting ‘a wall’. She discusses several ‘types’ of memory. Virtual memory, which is the ability to project yourself into feelings and emotions from your past, as in method acting, where “skill gets imprinted through the action (p.66).” Sensual memory, which is related to your senses, sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and the emotions experienced when you last activated them. Institutional memory, a belief that there are no new ideas, and we simply need to look back to be creative and edgy, rather than forward. Finally, there is ancient memory, where we tap into our roots going back to the dawn of time. These are all pieces that make up the whole of our memory, and a fortune of ideas for creativity.

“In order to be habitually creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative, but…it is only after you let go …that you can breathe life into your efforts. (p119)” Accidents Will Happen, the title of her seventh chapter shows how necessary it is to allow room for falling on your face. It is sometimes called ‘trial and learn’ or the ‘mistake quotient’, but whatever it is, it is the same basic premises. When stretching for the best ideas, you have to over extend, and that might knock you off balance. Her view of luck is that it is a skill, and one that comes from hard, frequent work, and sometimes you may have to fall down.

Ruts and Grooves are two very different situations. According to Tharp, a rut is not a block. A block is when you are at a standstill, unmoving, and empty. In a rut you may be moving, but you are going nowhere. A rut can come from a bad idea, bad timing, bad luck, or a bad case of doing the same thing over and over again. A groove, on the other hand, is the golden place. It is the mythical place where everything you touch works and works well. It is the time when ides flow, kinks are noticeable, and everything can be solved. It is “the zone” and it is wonderful.

I enjoyed reading this book. She is a woman whom I have admired for most of my life, and I enjoyed seeing her thoughts on what I am studying. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much of her personal theory could be connected to Creative Problem Solving or related information. While I believe that she intended this to be a book on creativity for anyone to read, it is strongly aimed at the performance art side of creativity, and if that is not a realm that you enjoy, then there will be points of this book that fly over your head or make you roll your eyes. She relies heavily on her personal experience, rather than any scientific study, so all information is qualitative in nature. If one outside of the performance world were to read this, they would have to be patient with the egotistical nature of that world. I encourage the reading of this book because it was an easy read, has good information, and the activities could be very helpful to promote creativity in most fields, both in and out of the performance world.

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