grooves, giving, and generosity [the creative habit]

March 16, 2009 | 2 Comments

This post is part of an ongoing series of reflections on my reading of The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp.

Much of my energy about the creative process of late has pointed toward one thought — how to get into “creative mode”. For me, and probably for you, it doesn’t just happen. It requires an intentional level of engagement. Much of my writing here is about making space in my brain and calendar to be creative. I know this creation of space is important, but the act of making something, of course, requires much more.

In The Now Habit, Neil Fiore kickstarted some of my thoughts on this. He calls this creative mode The Flow State (see this post). In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp relates to this creative mode as a Groove. What strikes me about the groove is emotion she feels while she is in it:

Whenever I feel like I’m working in a groove it’s invariably because I feel I am being the benefactor in the stuation rather than the beneficiary.

Elsewhere, she writes:

Generosity is luck going in the opposite direction, away from you.

Of course, the act of creating is one that moves outward from us, but to name this as generosity helps me hold onto what an act of creation really is. To create is to give. Tharp’s words remind me of a previously posted quote in Bird by Bird from Anne Lamott that I think of often:

You are going to have to give and give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.

The insights offered by these two reflect my own experiences. When I feel like I am in anything approaching a groove, it is because my thoughts are propelled outward by a desire to share them, no, to share my very self, with others.

But this need to give reveals a tension inherent to what I experience in my creative process. This tension exists between collecting and giving, between self-protection and self-disclosure. When I feel tapped out, I need to retreat. It becomes a time of reflection and reading — a time to replenish my thoughts, my soul. But it is always a temptation to maintain this stance — to collect thoughts and ideas and keep them to myself. When the burst of creation happens, it requires the risk to step out of protection and move into generosity. It comes from a need to give and share with others that which I have been holding on to.

To create is to give.

  • Funny, I just caught your post while I was finishing a post on the Flow state myself:

    I have Twyla Tharp’s book ready to go once I finish what I’m currently reading. Looking forward to it. I completely agree that “to create is to give” – there’s very little in the process of writing (or any creative process) that isn’t done as a labor of love so to speak. I’d argue it’s close to impossible to really achieve “flow” if you don’t love what it is you’re actually doing. If it’s forced, it won’t happen.

    One thing I also do is environmental preparation. It sounds crazy, but I can’t write (or do any real work) without an uncluttered environment – and sometimes this means lighting, aromatics, a clean Windows/Mac desktop, whatever. I feel like if I can spend about 3 minutes preparing my environment to free my mind, it can help me enter the flow state much more quickly.

    Anyway, good stuff 😉

    Mike Torress last blog post..Introduction to the Flow State (part 1 of 2)

  • John

    Thanks for your comments Mike. My environment tends to affect me a lot as well.