The Creative Habit: My Creative Autobiography

I’m reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit and thought it would be fun to “blog through it.” Early in the book, she encourages you to answer 33 questions that help you to form your “creative autobiography” to help understand your creative identity. So here goes!!

  1. What is the first creative moment you remember?
    I have a hard time remembering back… so I’ll go to first grade, where we were putting together a booklet about ourselves and our school. I remember being very proud of the drawing I made of the front of the school.
  2. Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it?
    Again, hard to remember back. I’m sure my teacher and family complimented it, and my sisters added it to my scrapbook. I still have it.
  3. What is the best idea you’ve ever had?
    “Idea” could be interpreted in so many ways…
    Best idea for my career was choosing to pursue web design (instead of becoming a math teacher).
    Best work-of-art idea I’ve ever had was a design for a stained-glass box that I made in high school.
    Best original invention (there aren’t many of these), I made a one-page piano-page turner out of scrap wood and string when I was nine or ten.
    Recent best idea was to pursue my dream of playing the harp.
    Best idea(s) for life: Saying “yes” to God, and saying “yes” to UC Davis instead of UC Berkeley so that I could meet Steve and say “yes” to him when he asked me to marry him.
  4. What made it great in your mind?
    Web design
    : I don’t think I was really cut out to be a high school teacher. My career path has led me to great friends, a daily job that I love, and a published book.
    Stained glass box: What can I say, it’s gorgeous.🙂
    Piano page-turner: It was practical while being silly, and I came up with the idea all by myself.
    Harp: Why wait to pursue a dream?
    Life: These were some of the most important decisions I could have made, and I do not regret any of them.
  5. What is the dumbest idea?
    To be a math major in college.
  6. What made it stupid?
    I was trying to prove to others that I was “smart,” not just “creative,” and to prove to myself that I could meet the challenge. What a waste of thousands of dollars of tuition and books! I’m not saying the education wasn’t valuable, but I count this as “stupid” because of my prideful motives.
  7. Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?
    In the book, Twyla Tharp answers this question for #3, but I think it’s a bit ambiguous so I will answer for both 3 and 6.
    Web design: My sister Leslie and her husband generously flew me out to Boston the summer of my junior year in college and lined up an internship for me with an online educational company. I had to learn basic HTML and use Photoshop to help put together some educational materials and I was hooked. I came home, bought a PC (to replace the old old Mac Plus I had inherited), and started learning more.
    Stained glass box: We had to sketch the design for the top of the box. I can’t connect the dots – the idea “just came to me.” (With the way I’m hyping this thing up, I’ll have to take a picture of the box someday.)
    Piano page-turner: I was trying to think of an easy way to turn a piano page while playing, and imagined a lever/pulley system.
    Harp: A book I read in junior high (I don’t even remember the plot or title now) had a girl as the main character who played the harp. Part of the plot involved her wheeling her harp out somewhere on the street and playing it. I’ve wanted to play the harp ever since. For the rest of the story, see my Harp Adventures post.
    Life: God – Growing up in a strong religious family started me off, and my own personal experiences have helped to cement my faith. UC Davis – A fat scholarship tipped the balance. Steve – We met playing pickup basketball at 6:30 in the morning my senior year of college and became friends. The next fall, we both happened to move into houses a block apart which also happened to be a bit far from campus and everything else. We both only had bikes, and started hanging out A LOT. It finally became official. A year later, he proposed, and then we got married.
    Math major: I wasn’t especially “into” math in high school, but in my freshman year of college, I had The Best Teacher Ever for calculus. I thought I would like to be a teacher like him, but at that time didn’t have the clarity of seeing that I was inspired by the fact that he was a good teacher, not by mathematics itself. Then I started noticing the awe and surprise that came into people’s voices when I would mention that I was “thinking” about majoring in math. “Not design?” Sick of being put into a box, I went ahead and tried to break out of it.
  8. What is your creative ambition?
    I might have a few. I’d like to play harp well enough that I could perform (weddings, perhaps?). I’d like to write and publish another book, although I don’t know on what. I’d like to successfully start this side business I’ve been trying to get off the ground and break even sooner than later. In an overall and slightly vague summary, I suppose my creative ambition is to continue to refine the skills I already have and to keep growing and learning by trying new things.
  9. What are the obstacles to this ambition?
    Time is limited, as are finances. For the side business, I get easily confused by sales tax rules and the plethora of forms I have to fill out.
  10. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?
    Harp: Practice, practice, practice!
    Book: Keep blogging to practice writing and continue to develop my skills and obtain new experiences. Perhaps a topic will come.
    Side business: Get the nitty-gritty details worked out. Find one of those free small business help centers.
  11. How do you begin your day?
    I wake up when Steve does, which is between 4:30-6 depending on his job. I make his lunch, then start my routines. See #12.
  12. What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?
    After Steve leaves, I’ll usually check email/read blogs, then walk or run, shower, spend some time reading the Bible, journaling, and praying, eat breakfast, and if I’m lucky, remember to brush my teeth and hair. Then, back to my desk to plan my day and start working. Usually I blog before I start paid work. I usually take a lunch break, and read while I eat (either a library book or blogs). At the end of my workday, I practice harp and then make dinner and hang out with Steve. On weekends, a common pattern that shows up on Saturdays (when we are in town) is going to the library, video store, and thrift stores.
  13. Describe your first successful creative act.
    Hm. How do you define “successful”? I’ll narrow this question to “financial success.” I think the first time I got paid for a creative act was my junior year of high school, during the “scratchboard” unit (silvery metal overlaid with black ink, and you scratch it away with a sharp stylus). I did some pretty realistic cat pictures, and my art teacher said that someone (his wife?) wanted to commission me to do another one. I think I got paid $20 or $25, which seemed like a fortune to me at the time.
  14. Describe your second successful creative act.
    I’m probably forgetting some things in between, but the next time I got paid cash for creative work was winning a multi-cultural poster contest my senior year of high school. The poster had faces of people of various ethnicities around a globe with some slogan on it, done in colored pencil. I won $50.
  15. Compare them.
    Commissioned art vs. winning a contest… I don’t remember having any fears of failure in either situation. Mediums were different (scratchboard vs. colored pencil) but both involved illustration. I worked from photographs for both.
  16. What are your attitudes toward: money, power, praise, rivals, work, play?
    Money – Feel guilty that I should “be managing it better.” Happy with charitable giving level.
    Power – Uncomfortable with the idea of having power. Often seems like people with power are not very nice.
    Praise – Can’t accept it unless I accept myself.
    Rivals – Do I have any?
    Work – Fun. I feel blessed to be able to do what I do.
    Play – Important.
  17. Which artists do you admire most?
    Reference favorite authors. Specifically picking a few: Orson Scott Card, Lois McMaster Bujold, Madeliene L’Engle, C.S. Lewis.
  18. Why are they your role models?
    They clearly express themselves through words. They craft engaging stories that have an authentic core that resonates with me.
  19. What do you and your role models have in common?
    Not sure. I don’t know much about their personal lives.
  20. Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?
    My two older sisters. Also reference “Designers I Admire” in blogroll.
  21. Who is your muse?
    Reference #20.
  22. Define muse.
    According to online dictionaries, a source of inspiration.
  23. When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond?
    Usually, “wow.” However — iff they are clearly more intelligent/talented than me, but the rest of their life or character is not admirable, then I’m probably not going to be overly impressed.
  24. When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond?
    Stupidity – Slightly frustrated, but have to shrug it off.
    Hostility – Run away if possible.
    Intransigence (I had to look this one up — “stubbornness” is how I understand it) – Deal with it.
    Laziness – Work even harder. Maybe they’ll catch the fire, and if not, at least I’m getting my stuff done.
    Indifference – Drop it, and find someone else who cares.
  25. When faced with impending success or the threat of failure, how do you respond?
    Impending success — Not sure if I’ve been faced with this in a way that is memorable.
    Threat of failure — Want to hide. It takes a lot of work to process through why I’m afraid and what lies about my identity I might be believing.
  26. When you work, do you love the process or the result?
    Hmmmmm. Hard choice. Am I allowed to say both? I get very engrossed in the process, but I also find myself grinning over the results. (Embarrassed to admit this, but sometimes I will go back and re-read blogs I’ve written that I thought were especially good!)
  27. At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp?
    When I want to start new hobbies or other activities that take up time. For example – I would love to get back into stained glass, drawing, and get better at painting and guitar. I want to make my own hand-made cards. I want to also learn to play a hammered dulcimer, while continuing to take harp lessons. I’d like to travel more w/ hubby, go backpacking more, go to the ocean more. Not enough time….
  28. What is your ideal creative activity?
    Making something pretty or cool or tasty.
  29. What is your greatest fear?
    Not sure if I have one…?
  30. What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening?
    Highly likely to the first one.
  31. Which of your answers would you most like to change?
    #29, because I like to fill out answers properly.
  32. What is your idea of mastery?
    Becoming skilled enough at something that you can teach others.
  33. What is your greatest dream?
    To have lived well and loved well.

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