Book Review: The Creative Habit, Learn It and Use It for Life

Twyla Tharp calls her book “a practical guide” to tapping into what all great artists know: to increase your level of growth and potential for success you need to make your creative endeavors a habit.  This idea is nothing new (I don’t think any idea really is), but it is a very important one to revisit regularly.  Ms. Tharp uses her experiences as a long-time successful choreographer to help us understand how her creative habit unfolds daily and through projects, as well as shares with us the high and low points along the path of her art.

Yes, there are times in the book when her opinions are stated as facts, as well as times when an idea presented contradicts an earlier one.  I appreciate and understand what she is ultimately sharing, though, and enjoy taking a peek behind her creativity curtain.  Learning how other people “do” their lives is always fascinating and fruitful for me.  I love trying on other people’s ways of doing things and adding what works to my personal toolbox of life.

I recommend this book if, like me, you’re always looking for new ideas to help keep your creativity flowing.


Erasable Highlighters

In my post about how I go about memorizing songs, shows, scripts, etc., I mentioned one of my most highly-valued tools in my singing toolkit: The Erasable Highlighter. As with most things in life, though, there are caveats.

Because I have been accused of overthinking things more times than I care to admit, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the details. It is useful to know that there are two types of erasable highlighters. One type erases by friction and another type erases by chemical reaction. They each have subtle pros/cons, but honestly most people will never need to worry about the differences. In case you, too, have a curious desire for more information than is probably necessary, I’ll recap the details:

Friction.  This ink is thermosensitive, so temperature plays a big part of the appearance and  disappearance of the color. The heat from the friction of the eraser causes the ink to “disappear”, but very cold temperatures (below 14 F) can cause it to reappear. Conversely, leaving the markers (or your score) in a hot car can make the ink “disappear.” If this happens to your markers or score, just pop them in the freezer. If you have to return a score to a lending library, though, it’s best to use a chemical-based erasable highlighter. It could turn into an issue if the score you returned as unmarked was shipped in cold temperatures and suddenly had lots of markings reappear!

Chemical.  The other kind of erasable highlighter ink gets erased with a chemical reaction from the eraser-end of the marker. One end of the marker has a color tip, the opposite end has an eraser tip. A potential downside to these is that once the eraser chemical has been on the paper, you can’t re-highlight over it. Also, some of the colors aren’t erasable by the eraser tip of other colors.  So, for example, it’s best to just erase the pink color with the pink marker’s eraser. These markers also seem to dry out faster than the others, in my experience.

My Choice.  This is a rarity for me, but I tend to use what I can easily find at the time. Generally it’s the friction-based highlighters that I use most often. I congratulate myself for just making a choice and moving forward, although the What Ifs are always slightly tugging at the back of my mind. I suggest you also just buy some, use them, and enjoy all of the possibilities they have to offer!

Be sure to read the accompanying post:  The Herculean Task of Memorizing a One-Woman Show.

Book Review: Practiceopedia-The Music Student’s Illustrated Guide to Practicing

Are you familiar with this book?  It was written in 2007 by Philip Johnston, and it’s a valuable resource in my teaching studio.  In fact, I keep it out as the “coffee table book” in my waiting room for students to grab a practice tip of the week to try out.

The author is a music educator who has a broad background which includes being a concert pianist as well as teaching piano, marital arts, and high school English.  I especially welcome the mixture of attentive focus and incremental goals in his practice advice.

The Practiceopedia is set up to be very easy to use and is illustrated in a way that will appeal to all ages.  Quickly skimming will always bring new ideas to the surface, and a favorite aspect of mine is the topic focus guide at the beginning of the book.  “Not wanting to practice” and “Saving time” are just two of the topics that have a multitude of practice suggestions.

My husband and I both have degrees in music and perform professionally.  We have spent many, many hours both practicing and learning how to practice.  Even with all of our experience, we both enjoy reading this book and appreciate the presentation of ideas both new to us and time-tested.  Whether you’re a parent of a student, a musician who is just starting out, or an advanced performer, this book truly has something to offer everyone on their musical journey.



(Book Review) Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends

I love hunting for clues and have been a sucker for a good mystery since I was a kid. Most of my time now is searching in the realm of singing and the science of learning, but this book was too tempting for me to pass up. It’s a fun summer read that can open your eyes to the social clues all around you (including telling ones in your own life).

In Small Data, Martin Lindstrom takes us on a pinball-type adventure as we bounce around the world with him exploring the private and public lives of ordinary people in diverse cultures.  Watching as he collects clues and learning how he applies them in his consulting for branding and marketing, we start to see the method in his seemingly-random observations and experience lovely ah-ha moments as we see his suggestions play out in business implementation.

From connecting the dots of seemingly unrelated things like refrigerator magnets, fire, world religions, and legos, it seems he leaves no stone (or beer bottle) unturned.  This is a fun romp through the tales of a modern marketing detective who mines the “small data”.