Twyla Tharp - Creative muse

Love this image of Twyla. Her expression of pure contentment and joy is a testament to fully expressing oneself.

I’ve struggled these last few days to not pick up the crochet hook. I had been doing so much crocheting to get ready for a big event last week, that I think I’ve done something to my shoulder. Yes, folks, crochet can be quite physical, but let’s not call it “hooker’s” shoulder. That makes my life sound more exciting than it is. Some rest and strategic stretching should take care of things, but in the meantime I’m going crazy with boredom. Luckily the crochet marathon turned out well for me. I’m happy, but sore.

When the hook is at rest…

During these crochet down times I skip around my favorite internet sites and rummage through old crochet books. This feeds my creative side while I wait for the physical to recover. Unfortunately, the creative side is a restless and dissatisfied beast that wants to bite off more than it can chew–and it wants it today. Frustration ensues as my shoulder twinges and creaks. So, I take the time to sketch out these ideas in my notebook, but resist the desire to act on them immediately.

Finding an unexpected muse

This is where Twyla Tharp comes in. Most of you probably know Twyla as the wonderfully inventive dancer and choreographer. Until I picked up one of her books recently, I had no idea what a creative, wide-ranging mind she possessed. The book – “The Creative Habit – Learn it and Use it for Life” – has helped me better understand the discipline needed for any creative undertaking as well as the importance of attending to your creative endeavors everyday–or at least on a regular schedule. If you haven’t read this book, do so. It’s practical, inspiring and full of insights about creative genius over time, from Balanchine to Beethoven, from da Vinci to Billy Joel. Creativity, we learn, has been a human impulse since our earliest ancestors scratched on cave walls. It’s how we leave our mark in so many ways.

What struck me the most about her advice is how universal it is. While her world is one of dance and choreography, everything she says is applicable in our world, whether it’s crochet, writing, quilting, painting, jewelry making, ceramics, gardening or running a business. Her advice works anywhere because–and this was the big lesson for me–life itself is a creative undertaking.

Here are her fears. How many of them do you share? (Reveal: I share them all, and then some!)

Quote from Twyla Tharp


  1. People will laugh at me.
  2. Someone has done it before.
  3. I have nothing to say.
  4. I will upset someone I love.
  5. Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind.

And, here are her pithy, down-to-earth responses to each:

  1. People will laugh at me. Twyla: “Not the people I respect.” She goes on to share one of her failures–a scathing review of an early work. Her response: “So what? Thirty-seven years later I’m still here.”)
  2. Someone has done it before. Twyla: “Honey, its all been done before. Nothing’s really original. Not Homer or Shakespeare and certainly no you. Get over yourself.”
  3. I have nothing to say. Twyla: “An irrelevant fear. We all have something to say. Plus, you’re panicking too soon.”
  4. I will upset someone I love. Twyla: “The best you can do is remind yourself that you’re a good person with good intentions. You’re trying to create unity, not discord.”
  5. Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind. Twyla: “Toughen up. Better an imperfect dome in Florence than cathedrals in the clouds.”

As rich as all this is, it barely scratches the surface of all the advice contained in this wonderful book. Buy it or borrow it, but read it today. It’s worth your time.

Notebook with handwriting

Found in the book. Another person on a creative quest.

Almost as inspiring as Twyla’s words, however, was the scrap of paper I found inside this book (purchased second hand at Half Price Books). Someone took the time to write down key points on notebook paper and underline passages throughout the book in a delicate hand (I picture a reed thin ballet student with her hair up in a tight knot). As I read the book and came across her(?) underlined passages, I paid attention and envisioned another creative spirit searching for and finding inspiration, information and, most of all, reassurance. Thanks for putting this book back into circulation for me to find. I hope your creative journey continues to reward and challenge you, even as it will occasionally break and frighten you. You’re not alone.

If you haven’t already done so, take a minute to check out my Facebook page (StorylineCreations) and my shop on etsy. Your comments about this post and others are always welcome. Thank you!


3 thoughts on “Taking a break and facing fears

  1. I definitely can relate to #5. That’s happening to me right now with the Sleepyz Blanket you commented on at my blog! What great advice Tharp gives. Your post found me at just the right time. I’m going to my library and will check that book out!

    I also can sympathize with your crochet injury. Crochet is so much more physical than it seems, isn’t it?! I hope you recover quickly!


    • Glad you enjoyed the blog. I’m on the road to recovery, but it was so hard to take a break from crocheting. I’ve been setting a timer so I remember to stretch my shoulders and rotate my wrists every 20 minutes or so. Tharp’s book is a good one. Hope you enjoy it.


  2. Pingback: Leaving marks | storyline creations

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