Friday, November 30, 2012

Twyla Tharp, Anne Lamott, Rituals and a sleeve of Saltines

I'm not gonna lie.  Twyla Tharp has been stressing me out this week. Sometimes I wonder how my Type A personality is going to survive 12 weeks studying this book.  I've been obsessing over the need to create a ritualistic routine in my daily life...its not easy. 

Last night I had the amazing opportunity to attend A Conversation with Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) at Symphony Space in NYC.  I adore Anne Lamott.  She has a way of being so honest.  She doesn't make excuses for who she is.  All the while, she makes me laugh.  I love that. 

I was ready to sit back, relax and relieve some of my "Twyla stress".

Anne entered the stage.  Her first topic of conversation?  The habit of productivity.  No joke.  She said, "I need consistency, discipline and structure.  I have anxieties but thrive with routine."

OK.  I get it.  Routine works. 

Thanks, Anne.  Or should I call you Twyla?

Back home, standing over the sink eating a sleeve of Saltines (I had to skip dinner to see Anne), I got to thinking.  I felt revived.  I felt encouraged.  I felt energized.  Suddenly I wasn't feeling inadequate in regards to my lack of routine, I felt empowered to find what exactly would work for me in my life at this particular time.

What was different?  Why was a empowered by Anne, but overwhelmed by Twyla?

It was the "cosmic banana peel" as Anne calls it. 

"Remember that whenever the world throws rose petals at you, which thrill and seduce the ego, beware. The cosmic banana peel is suddenly going to appear underfoot to make sure that you don't take it all too seriously."

Anne reminds us that even the accomplished have footfalls.  They stumble.  They mess up.  And its ok. She is so open in sharing her own mistakes and laughing at them.  Apparently this works better for me, as I have a lot of "banana peels" to share.  In fact, sometimes I lie awake in bed at night and imagine the amazing blog post I will create for Elizabeth Stevens Omlor's Banana Peelin' once I am published.

So, covered in Saltine crumbs I imagined Twyla hungover, grouchy, not accomplishing a thing in her studio.  I imagined her staring at the blank space and 2 hours later the space is still blank.  I giggled as I saw phone call after phone call interrupt her moments to create.  Its kinda cruel shadenfreude, but it helps me to imagine these things.

You see, even Twyla doesn't get it right everyday.  Its about showing up.  Its about trying.  And once in awhile there will be a banana peel which will make me land on my tush.  Its ok.

So, I hope you aren't as Type A as me.  I hope Twyla hasn't been haunting you at night telling you you aren't doing enough.  Remember, this is a process, a journey.  Take a deep breath.  Try.  And if you slip...laugh.

Homework from Chapter 2:

1)  Pick up your pencil and a notebook and don't leave home without it.  Always be prepared/

2)  "Quietness without Loneliness"  Sit alone in a room and let your thoughts go wherever they will.  Do this for one minute.  Work up to ten minutes a day of this mindless mental wandering.  Then start paying attention to your thoughts to see if a word or goal materializes.  If it doesn't, extend the exercise to eleven minutes then twelve, then thirteen...until you find the length of time you need.  Note that is this the exact opposite of meditation.

3)  Face your fears and speak to them.

4)  Take a day off from the biggest distraction of your creative self.  Once you try one day, add another, or try the whole weekend or every day after 5pm.  You get the idea.  There are a lot of distractions out there--and you can live without them.  At least for a little while.

Have a wonderful weekend!  Happy Writing!

Join us next Monday as we study Chapter 3:  Your Creative DNA from "Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life" by Twyla Tharp.


  1. I love this post, Marcie. First, I adore Anne Lamott, so I had to come over and see what wisdom was gained from being in the same room as her. Second, I guest blogged on Banana Peelin' just yesterday, where I actually quoted AL so I felt that there was a cosmic responsibility to come here. Clearly, we are traveling similar paths right now. :-)

    I like #3, as it is exactly what I have been learning about anxiety. You can't push it down and pretend it doesn't exist. That doesn't work. You have to call it out, and give yourself time to talk through it, or it will decide to manifest itself in other ways.

    Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to hearing more about your process with Twyla!

  2. I am the opposite of Type A, so that's not even on the radar over here. I give myself a ridiculous number of passes. That being said, I "show up" most days. I only write for an hour a day, so mind wandering, body wandering, days off, and down time have plenty of space to fit in. My favorite tip today is, "Pick up your pencil." Coming off PiBoIdMo - that is BIG!

  3. Oh! It's hard for me to take a total day off from writing.I'm either reading blogs or thinking of revisions or writing a poem! I know I need to! Thanks for this post Marcie!

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  5. For obvious reasons I think you could guess I am a fan of Anne Lamott. =) I am super envious that you got to see her LIVE! I LOVED how you compared Twyla and Anne in terms of how they make you feel and I think it's very healthy to imagine Twyla stumped and struggling, because we all do. THANK GOODNESS. I think that's why I have always appreciated Anne Lamott. As you said, her honesty is so appealing. Great post and thank you so, so much for the mention. Can't wait for you to share you banana peel moments on the blog. No doubt it will be soon!


  6. Thanks for another helpful post! I'm more of a type C kind of person, so no anxiety here! It's funny, I just started doing Mindful Breathing - a sort of meditation type thing - first thing in the morning. Now, I'll have to add the mindless mental wandering after work. I'm sure I'll be better at the wandering than the breathing - I'm usually in a state of mental wandering by nature :-)