Quote of the day
I will upset someone I love? A serious worry that is not easily exorcised or stared down because you never know how loved ones will respond to your creation. The best you can do is remind yourself that you're a good person with good intentions. You're trying to create unity, not discord. See the curtain call. See the people standing up. Hear the crowd roaring.
Twyla Tharp on the "mighty demons" that "invade the launch of every project," in The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life.
Tharp describes four additional fears she experiences before embarking on a creative project:
- People will laugh at me
- Someone has done it before
- I have nothing to say
- Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind
This past weekend, a friend gave me Twyla Tharp's book as a gift for my most recent achievements, and I have been reading it voraciously, soaking in each word as if I have been waiting for a book like this for years. In just a few days, I have learned new ideas, gained fresh awareness, and my world view about creative expression is shifting. What a gift!
As I have been reading the book, Tharp's advice to hear the crowd roar, reminded me of a time back in 1996 when I completed the first chapter of my doctoral dissertation. Tom and I spent a month in Ithaca, New York, where he had a summer appointment as a visiting lecturer at Cornell University. We had been going out for a couple of years, and this was our first experience of living in the same apartment together.
When I arrived in Ithaca from Buffalo, Tom had gone ahead to set up the apartment. He had organized a secluded space in a corner of the living room especially for me to write my dissertation. There was a table and chair with my tiny little old Apple computer facing a window, which looked out at a small wooded area. My books were piled neatly on the table by the computer and on the floor. It looked like a safe haven. In the mornings, Tom would go off to Cornell to teach and I would settle down in what I considered to be my version of Virginia Woolf's room of one's own
. I allowed myself the time to read, think, and write. I felt embraced by Tom's love and caring through the space he had created specially for my work. I wrote and wrote. In the afternoons, he would return for lunch and then we would set out to play tennis, swim, take in a summer movie, or enjoy the restaurants Ithaca had to offer. Sometimes, we would drive around the lake and Tom would tell me stories of his summers past before we had met. It was heavenly.
Quite early one morning, I completed the first chapter of my dissertation. I leaned back in my chair, stretched my arms out and up to the ceiling, and spontaneously jumped up to do yoga exercises. As I was reaching up ecstatically into the sun salutation
I had a vivid image of a future time – walking up onto the stage on graduation day, approaching my advisor to receive the doctoral hood, and hearing family and friends applaud lovingly and supportively in the audience. The image was strong, real, tangible, palpable. I gasped with excitement feeling quite breathless with joy.
Suddenly, within seconds of that elated feeling of accomplishment and pride, a shadow covered my eyes and the room became dark. I could see only half the room. My heart began pounding with fear and I almost had to crawl to the bathroom with my head bowed low as if trying to keep the shadow at bay. I climbed into a bath of warm water, breathless with droplets of sweat prickling my brow. The bath did not ease the palpitations or shadow across my eyes. So, after dressing, I walked half blind, carefully and slowly up the hill to a cafe full of people from the university and neighborhood close by. I slipped into a chair by a table in the corner sipping at a cup of coffee, closing my eyes and feeling the friendly buzz of strangers around me as they talked quietly to one another. Slowly, after a couple of hours, the darkness left my eyes, and my breathing returned to normal. I looked around and breathed a deep sigh of relief.
It would be a few years later before Bob the therapist would help me unpack that experience and understand the enormity of my anxiety attack. The self punishment, self admonishment for even daring to imagine a realization of my dreams. Indeed, unbeknownst to me, I had entered one of my most dangerous psychological territories of all. It would take me another ten years or so to process through this. Now, as I look back at that time of my life pieces of that incident become clearer still. For example, I often wondered why I chose to save myself that morning by finding a cafe full of strangers where I could feel safe. Now I know that from a very young age I learned to seek out the kindness of strangers
for support and my emotional survival.
When I was a child I dreamed of being the finest ballerina who ever danced the world stages. My mother gave me that dream, created that image in my brain with bedtime stories about how I would one day dance at Covent Garden
and she would sit high up in the VIP box watching me curtsey graciously while receiving bouquets of roses for my accomplishments. Indeed, it was she, who first taught me to hear the crowd roar
In the end I did not choose ballet as my vehicle of self expression, although I still do enjoy dancing so much. But I am grateful for Ilene's
gift of Twyla Tharp's insights and practical guide to encourage my creative habits. It is right up there with Bob the therapist's farewell gift
to me – Martha Graham's keep the channel open
. It is no coincidence that I had the good fortune to receive these words of wisdom from famous dancers to inspire me to find my voice.
For, it was through dance in the very beginning of my life that I learned to dream: to … See the curtain call. See the people standing up. Hear the crowd roaring.