Dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp writes in her book The Creative Habit
that it’s vital to establish some rituals at the beginning of the creative process, when you’re most in danger of giving up.
Think of rituals as “automatic but decisive patterns of behavior.”
Here’s Tharp’s own ritual that she performs every morning: she wakes up at 5:30am, puts on her workout clothes, walks outside her home in New York City and hails a cab to her local gym, where she exercises for two hours.
As she points out, the ritual is not the stretching and weight training she does at the gym – the ritual is the cab ride: “The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.”
For Tharp, there are two reasons why rituals are so effective:
1. They save you energy and time
Having a ritual takes the emotion, unnecessary decision-making, and need for willpower out of the process.
You don’t get stuck asking yourself questions like: What should I do first? How should do this?
2. They give you positive momentum
Performing a ritual boosts your confidence and increases the likelihood that you’ll follow through with your broader goals.
As Tharp puts it, “By the time I give the taxi driver directions, it’s too late to wonder why I’m going to the gym and not snoozing under the warm covers of my bed. The cab is moving. I’m committed. Like it or not, I’m going to the gym.”
She acknowledges that there is no ideal condition for creativity – what works for one person may be useless for another.
The only criterion is to make it easy on yourself: “Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn’t scare you, doesn’t shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it.”