Just got an email from Eric Liu, announcing “Imagination Conversation Seattle” this October. He finished his book, Imagination First, coauthored with Scott Noppe-Brandon, the director of Lincoln Center Institute. I remember Scott’s presentation of Lincoln Center’s Imaginative Learning Initiative at the Guiding Lights conference last January in Seattle. It was quite forgettable, frankly. But Scott had that very staid, New York Executive Director kind of appeal to him. He wore a sweater with a tall collar and three open buttons at the top. His face and demeanor reminded me of the movie portrayal of Dr. Chilton, the psychiatrist responsible for Hannibal Lechter in Silence of the Lambs. The one whose hubris and carelessness of leaving a pen in Lechter’s cell results in his eventual escape. Because of this, it sends a chill down my spine to see images of him.

But that’s beside the point.

Checking out their book’s website led me to this book review, which is the real subject of this post. I’m having a prolific day! It’s entitled, “The More You Know, The Better You Can Imagine”. And it’s inspired by a quote from the book under review, Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. It basically talks about the discipline and ritual involved in every creative person’s life. That every creative person with a sustained output in fact has a disciplined life.

“Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell” – Twyla Tharp

She includes a 33-question quiz to define your own “Creative Autobiography”. I like the first three questions as a starting point for any person’s creative inquiry.

  • How do you begin your day?
  • What are your habits?
  • What patterns do you repeat?

I actually thought of running a parent workshop with this as an exercise, related to their family lives. What are the rituals that are repeated at least five out of seven days? Or even weekly rituals? Monthly? Yearly? Is there any discernable pattern to your existence? This is the foundation of a discipline, and one which Twyla Tharp says can give rise to a deep well of creative energy.

What she’s really saying is that creativity is our connection to our essential human energy – our ability to unleash anything at all from the universe of possibilities, whether it is in relationships, business, a craft, or a sport. Tharp is also speaking to an essential practice of self-inquiry which lies at the root of all human creative endeavor.

“The asking of the questions … sets you the task of learning as much as you can before you start putting paint to canvas, chisel to stone, finger to keyboard. And this questioning process doesn’t stop once you’ve begun. The more you know, the better you can imagine.

I love the power of this statement, and the meaning behind these words. She is telling us that greater self-knowledge – a turning inwards – will lead us to greater creative output and outflow of energy, what all of us seem to be yearning for. Our external goals and accomplishments we hold as dreams really begin with the simple act of asking ourselves some key questions. Once we ask, if we are interested in the answer, we will need to stop and listen, or go out to search for an answer. In short, it will propel our minds and bodies through the world, onto the path that is uniquely ours. When we share our discoveries on that path, we are participating in creativity.