Monday, January 14, 2013

"Creative Habit": #7 Accidents Will Happen

The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry  ~ Robert Burns, To a Mouse

Since starting to work through Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life" I have been stressed, perplexed and at times obsessed with routine and finding the creative routine that works for me.  It is this obsession that fuels my January, as I take time off from "work" to focus on writing.

The funny thing is, that as I looked to these weeks as a fulltime writer, I had many many plans.  I had my days mapped out.  I had my projects laid out.  I had my location spotted.   But, as the Robert Burns line says, these plans "often go awry". And they did.

And then I came to Chapter 7: Accidents will Happen. 

It seems that even Twyla knows that we cannot plan out every aspect of our creative work...that very planning can be the death of our creativity.

A plan is like the scaffolding around a building.  When you're putting up the exterior shell, the scaffolding is vital.  But once the shell is in place and you start work on the interior, the scaffolding disappears.  That's how I think of planning.  It has to be sufficiently thoughtful and solid to get the work up and standing straight, but it cannot take over as you toil away on the interior guts of a piece.  Transforming your ideas rarely goes according to plan.

Your creative endeavors can never be thoroughly mapped out ahead of time.  You have to allow for the suddenly altered landscape, the change in plan, the accidental spark -- and you have to see it as a stroke of luck rather than a disturbance of your perfect scheme.  Habitually creative people are, in E.B. White's phrase, "prepared to be lucky."

On the morning of January 3rd I set out for the main branch of the Brooklyn Library to work fulltime to be a writer.  To be creative.  What I encountered were some disturbances:
  • The entire area I was looking to work in was occupied by a large group of mentally challenged adults.  I got the feeling that they spent every day there.  So it was not as quiet as I hoped.
  • I planned to pack my lunch and eat as I worked.  But my salad exploded in my bag and I had to spend the first part of my day cleaning it up.
  • I got hungry and mentally tapped by 1pm.  I needed a break.
  • I had my day broken into 3 parts...but the first part took longer and I was quickly off schedule.
It was less than perfect.  I kinda felt defeated.

Today I sit at my local coffee shop.  Its closer to home.  I can take a break for some fresh air and lunch at home.  Serendiptiously I met a local (very accomplished writer) last week!  I've been able to get work done.  And for today its good.

Perhaps what makes us creative people is not just the work we create, but the way in which we are in a constant state of learning to go with the ebb and flow.  Life is in a constant state of change and so are we.

So today I am in total agreement with Twyla.  Surprising, right? 

Let go of your perfectionism.  Trust your preparation.  And then....who knows.


  1. Well said Marcie. I have a general routine so as to make sure I actually get things done. But I like to have enough flexibility where I can change it up. I try to always bring me notebook wherever I go.

  2. I like this flexibility. Routine scares me. I like the vague goal of writing for an hour a day. Any hour, anywhere, on any type of technology, In any form. I am two thumbs up on this post!. Yay!

  3. There is no such thing as a perfectly planned day, but every day is perfect. :) I live by serendipity.

  4. Time to rename blog as "The write accident" instead of "the write routine"?