Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Put Ass Where Heart Wants 2 B, Part 2

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 29, 2013

I was reading an article about Twlya Tharp, the renowned dancer and choreographer of Push Comes to Shove and many more—and the author of The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life.


Twyla Tharp

The article said that every morning Twyla emerges at six A.M. from her New York apartment building (my apologies to Ms. Tharp if I get any of these details wrong) and catches a cab to her dance studio, where she starts her day’s work.

Here’s what I immediately thought:

I’d love to set up a video camera across the street from Ms. Tharp’s building, pointing directly at her front door. We could mount the camera on, say, the third or fourth floor of the opposite building, so it had a nice wide down-angle of the sidewalk and the street. We’d program the camera to turn itself on every morning just before Ms. Tharp emerges from her building and to stay on till she had successfully flagged down a taxi and driven off.

We’d do this every day for a year, then edit the footage together in sequence. In other words, we’d create a video record of one full year of an artist getting up early every morning and, come hell or high water, heading off to her place of work.

Think about it. We’d have days with blizzards. We’d have sweltering summer mornings. We’d have gorgeous, crisp days in Fall. We’d have rainy days when it was impossible to find a cab. On those mornings we’d see Ms. Tharp trundling off for the subway or bus, or shouldering her umbrella and heading for the studio on foot.

Let’s say each morning’s video snippet, after editing, lasted thirty seconds. Twyla comes out of her building, Twyla hails a cab, Twyla gets aboard, the taxi zips off. Suppose she does this 300 days a year (we’ll have to give her a few weeks off, not to mention out-of-town travel days). At thirty seconds per, our little video document would be 150 minutes long. Two and a half hours.

What’s great about any work of art is what it implies. This Twyla Tharp video implies a lot. It implies habit—powerful, positive, professional habit. It implies will, dedication, love, devotion, commitment. It implies slaying the dragon of Resistance every morning. It implies an entire philosophy of life and art.

Do we want every person in New York City to come out of their buildings at six A.M. every morning, ready to do their artistic or entrepreneurial thing? Probably not. There aren’t enough cabs anyway. But I for one love to think of Twyla Tharp grabbing her coffee and her iPhone and catching a cab to her studio, year-round at the crack of dawn, ready to put her butt where her heart wants to be.

So the next time you and I take a seat in a concert hall and watch another wonderful Twyla Tharp ballet or modern dance and we ask ourselves, “How in the world does she do it?”, we’ll know where to go for our answer.

We’ll go to those three hundred days of videotape.

That’s how she does it.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

22 Responses to “Put Ass Where Heart Wants 2 B, Part 2”

  1. Basilis
    May 29, 2013 at 5:08 am

    To be a Pro is a good habit! 😉

  2. Kent Faver
    May 29, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Reading the Amazon reviews of Ms. Tharp’s book (thanks for the link), one person gave her 3 stars because he said her voice was not gentle enough in encouraging others to just do it. Now, that’s funny. Thanks Steven for the reminder that 6 am x 300 is mostly work and willpower, not feel goodness.

    • May 30, 2013 at 9:11 pm

      One of the reasons I love DO THE WORK and TURNING PRO is because Steven is so kick ass.

  3. May 29, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Here are exact words from p. 14 from chapter 2: Rituals of preparation of Twyla’s book:
    “I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my work out clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and 1st Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight trainingI put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell driver where to go I have completed the ritual”

    I loved her book.
    Thanks for pointing out Twyla’s art, Steve.

    I hope there will be more people out there able to recognise and appreciate sweat and work behind everyone who truly into pro. (the best case scenario would be because they too create art and have rituals of doing the work)

    – is

    • May 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Ah, thanks for that, Ivana. I had it wrong. I thought Ms. Tharp went to her dance studio. The gym is even better!

      Thanks for finding and contributing that passage!

  4. May 29, 2013 at 10:27 am

    According to “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work,” author Mason Currey quotes Tharp from her book “The Creative Habit” as saying she arises every day at 5:30am, puts on her workout clothes, steps outside, grabs a cab and heads to the Pumping Iron Gym, where she works out for two hours (!!) – after that she has breakfast (three hard boiled egg whites and coffee), takes care of correspondence, etc., and then heads to her studio…that’s almost more awesome, if you ask me! 😀
    She said, “A dancer’s life is about repetition.”

    • May 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm

      Oops, I replied too soon, Amy. Thanks to you too.

  5. May 29, 2013 at 10:32 am

    WOW, I love this.

    Simple yet powerful.

    Keep doing the work, 95% or more don’t have the consistency, consistency is KEY to winning.

  6. Steve E
    May 29, 2013 at 11:02 am

    The real discipline is not getting up in the early morning but disconnecting and going to bed earlier than most. About 2 years ago, I started getting up at 4:30 AM to get on my bike for a 40+ mile ride finishing by 8:00AM. This is where I get my creative juice. Getting up every day (in all weather) is easy, It’s signing off by 9:15 when things are still going on that takes effort. I look forward to reading Twlya’s book

    • Sonja
      May 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

      I totally agree. I’m a morning person too, but if I don’t knock off by a 10 p.m., I’m useless for my morning writing ritual.

    • Karen
      May 30, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Yep, that’s my take too. Conceptualizing a “day” as a 24-hour cycle, I feel like my day STARTS with my period of what you refer to as “disconnecting,” in other words my arising and what I do subsequent not the beginning of the cycle.

      I’d love to know what Twyla’s evenings leading up to sleep are like. Also, I’d love to hear from Steven Pressfield about this aspect of HIS “day”…

  7. BeaGomez
    May 29, 2013 at 11:49 am

    This routine becomes muscle memory at some point, and as she gets an endorphin boost from the activity, I’ll bet she’s cranky as hell if she can’t go to the studio.

  8. JMStevenson
    May 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Love this movie idea, wish I could watch it on the big screen as a short before a major dance movie. Alas those days are long gone and I lament that this little gem lives in idea land only.

  9. May 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Bless her heart getting a start on the day at 0530. 0400 is better.

  10. May 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Getting up early isn’t my thing; getting enough sleep is. I write best between the hours of 10am and 7pm. But I can write anytime, anywhere when I’m focused. (Except not in car.)

  11. May 30, 2013 at 9:08 am

    i like it, i like it a lot.

  12. May 30, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Whether it’s the gym or the studio, this is powerful. And serendipitous. Or something. Yesterday I broke down. Being a mommy 24-7 with no days off has me and my business like whoa. SO. I’m putting practices in place to do the work I was made to do. I’m hiring a sitter. But even on non-siter days, I’ve created the ritual I will work during naptime. Because I am a pro.

  13. June 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I’m not a morning person, but several years ago I started getting up and working out at 6 a.m. It improved my life in so many ways: better sleep, improved diet, increased energy and even banished my seasonal mood disorder. Very much inspired by Do the Work. So happy you do the work, Steven!

  14. September 29, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    I’m a big fan of that early morning ‘hour of power’ as Tony Robbins or Robin Sharma call it. Twlya Tharp’s The Creative Habit is a book I return to again and again. I feel it is genuine and authentic and never fails to inspire me to try just that little bit harder when it comes to creative pursuits. I wrote a short review of it myself, when I first read it. Here’s the link. http://www.jamessweetman.com/2011/10/the-creative-habit/

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