In a book every single person on the planet should read, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, Twyla Tharp lists 33 questions, the answers to which, she says, form your creative autobiography. “I believe that we all have strands of creative code hard-wired into our imaginations,” Twyla explains. “These strands are as solidly imprinted in us as the genetic code that determines our height and eye color, except they govern our creative impulses. They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them.”
By turning an anthropologist’s eye towards ourselves, we are better able to see our creative habits — tracing back to our very first memory of feeling creative. “If you understand the strands of your creative DNA, you begin to see how they mutate into common threads in your work,” Twyla says. “You begin to see the ‘story’ you are trying to tell; why you do the things you do (both positive and self-destructive); where you are strong and where you are weak (which prevents a lot of false starts) and how you see the world and function in it.”
Here are the 33 questions:
1. What is the first creative moment you remember?
2. Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it?
3. What is the best idea you’ve ever had?
4. What made it great in your mind?
5. What is the dumbest idea?
6. What made it stupid?
7. Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?
8. What is your creative ambition?
9. What are the obstacles to this ambition?
10. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?
11. How do you begin your day?
12. What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?
13. Describe your first successful creative act.
14. Describe your second successful creative act.
15. Compare them.
16. What are your attitudes toward: money, power, praise, rivals, work, play?
17. Which artists do you admire most?
18. Why are they your role models?
19. What do you and your role models have in common?
20. Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?
21. Who is your muse?
22. Define muse.
23. When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond?
24. When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond?
25. When faced with the threat of failure, how do you respond?
26. When you work, do you love the process or the result?
27. At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp?
28. What is your ideal creative activity?
29. What is your greatest fear?
30. What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening?
31. Which of your answers would you most like to change?
32. What is your idea of mastery?
33. What is your greatest dream?