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Modern Parenthood

7 tips to help reignite the Twyla Tharp creativity in any parent

7 tips to reignite the Twyla Tharp-style creativity in any parent. From note-taking to magazine-reading to Ms. Tharp's own trademark magpie inspiration box, this list will help parents find that special inspirational spark.

By Guest blogger / May 24, 2012

Our happiness expert offers up 7 tips to increase creativity, including one straight from the playbook of Twyla Tharp. Here Ms. Tharp appears at the curtain call for the opening night performance of her Broadway musical "Come Fly Away" in New York on Thursday, March 25, 2010.

Charles Sykes/AP

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New York City

This Wednesday: 7 tips I use to spark my creativity.

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Guest blogger

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller "The Happiness Project" and the forthcoming "Happier at Home." She started her career in law and was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when she realized she wanted to be a writer. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. She blogs at  The Happiness Project.

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I’ve read a lot of advice about how to spark creativity. Everyone’s creativity takes a different form, however, so the advice that works varies from person to person.

For example, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be efficient and productive. One of my struggles, therefore, is to allow myself to spend time on activities that don’t pay off in some direct way. Creativity often involves play, digression, exploration, experimentation, and failed attempts; it doesn’t always look productive.

As ludicrous as it may sound, I have to force myself to wander, and schedule time for goofing off.

Here are some creativity-boosting strategies that work for me:

1. Take notes. I have a compulsion to take notes as I read. I write down quotations and bits of information that catch my interest. In fact, all my book projects have really been ways to justify taking the notes that I most wanted to take.

I used to fight the urge to take notes that weren’t related to a specific project, but now I let myself go. I make strange lists, for no reason. I take notes without a purpose. I realize that sometimes, even many years later, I do find a purpose for those notes. All this note-taking is time-consuming, but in the end, highly satisfying. Along the same lines, I…

2. Follow my interests. I no longer try to curb my reading impulses; I don’t try to stop myself from reading everything ever written about St. Therese of Lisieux, or everything that Gary Taubes has ever written about nutrition, or lots of children’s literature. Instead of focusing on what I “ought” to be doing, I allow myself to wander—by buying an odd book, poking around the internet, or exploring an unusual place.

3. Buy supplies. As a confirmed under-buyer, I dislike making purchases, but in keeping with my resolution to “enjoy a modest splurge,” I encourage myself to make an occasional creativity-supporting purchase. A few months ago, I bought a beautiful set of magic markers and an oversized pad of drawing paper. For some reason, I just craved them. And indeed, when I got home, I sat down to a spell of…

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