Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit presents a series of questions to help creatives dig into their life story.
I invite you to post your answers to these ten questions. Link back here so I can follow along and read your stories. Here is mine.
1. What is the first creative moment you remember? Singing Linda Ronstadt in front of our television set at four years old. I stood there in my red fiesta dress with Linda’s image behind me, singing songs I barely understood. I wanted my small body to be filled up with all that sound that came barreling out of her. More than anything, I wished for a voice that powerful.
2. What is the best idea you’ve ever had? What made it great in your mind? Trade glamour and perfection for independence and reality. It was hard to confront my life head-on without any illusions, but I had to give up this “perfect face” I was presenting to the world and start figuring out what I wanted. I hit a wall on the path I was on and could keep banging my head against it or find another way, even if that was terrifying.
3. What is the dumbest idea? That I needed to please everyone and fit in with my surroundings.
4. What is your creative ambition? To write down truths that make people feel connected and help them change for the good.
5. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition? I must keep creating content, stick to what I know, and keep putting it out there.
6. Describe your first successful creative act. Barbara Moreno (my fifth grade teacher) believed everyday was a good day for creative writing. When I showed her my poem about a penguin she said, “You’re a writer.” It was a descriptive poem of a slippery bird in a desolation of tundra. I was enraptured in my vision, intent on summoning the perfect words to describe the ice, the muted sky, the quality of air. I had traveled to a place that was all my own, even if it was all in my head.
7. Describe your second successful act. How does it compare to the first? An essay regarding “The United States’ Approach on Infectious Disease in Developing Nations.” I won a national prize and they flew me to NYC to participate in the Model UN. My first successful act was very insular. This was nearly the opposite. I wrote draft after draft, incorporating ideas that strengthened my position, and scrapping what didn’t. I always had the reader in mind. I was looking out at the world and attempting to affect it.
8. Which artists do you admire most and why? What do you have in common? Hemingway, Steinbeck, Lorrie Moore, Sam Shepard, Anne Enright. I like clear, no-frills writing. It is courageous to tell it like it really is. To not hide behind flowery and frivolous language because your eyes aren’t open and you have nothing to say. These writers understand how to get out of their own way so their stories shine. Like them, I try to write from a place of truth. Capturing the reality and at the same time recognizing there is something greater, the possibilities of what is not visible.
9. What is your greatest fear? Mediocrity.
10. What is your idea of mastery? Breaking through pure skill. Transforming/transcending the boundaries of your chosen medium. To make the work alive and timeless, powerful enough to move people on its own.
Note: This is an excerpt and some of the questions have been combined for brevity. Find the complete list here.