Every month we chat with a different person about their creative process, hopefully gleaning an insight or two about creativity. Specifically, we delve into the activities that spark their imagination and how they overcome creativity-crushing obstacles. We also ask for their advice on how readers can cultivate their creativity.
This month we had the pleasure of interviewing Zohar Tirosh-Polk, an award-winning playwright and creativity coach. Through her company, Grow Creative Coaching, Tirosh-Polk supports creative women and moms on their artistic journeys.
What’s her creative process, her inspirations, and how does she get over those creativity distractions?
Her plays — Pieces, Land/Holy, This Bloody Mess, Waltz, and Six — have been developed for production in many theaters, including: Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors Lab, The New Group, Magic Theatre, New Repertory Theatre, The Cape Cod Theatre Project, Rising Phoenix Repertory, The Brick and Columbia University.
Her English translation of Hanoch Levin’s play Those Who Walk in the Dark is published in Wanderers: and Other Israeli Plays by Seagull Books.
She’s worked with Rina Yerushalmi’s Itim Theatre Ensemble in Tel Aviv, Centerstage in Baltimore and Anne Kraft in Berlin. She also was the production dramaturg on Carey Perloff’s Higher at A.C.T. in San Francisco.
Tirosh-Polk is a graduate of Columbia University, recipient of the top prize in the Jewish Plays Project’s 2012 competition and a Foundation for Jewish Culture’s New Jewish Theatre Projects grant.
1. Do you incorporate creativity-boosting activities into your daily routine? If so, what activities do you do?
I do. When I work on a project I write my morning pages religiously; it just gets me writing, something, anything. A lot of ideas and scenes started that way.
I listen to music. A lot of music. Music gets me going.
I take a walk or move my body if I can or I stay still; sometimes that’s a better way to listen to the muse(s).
In between projects, I try to take a class, do a workshop or see a show. I’ve learned that I really need to be with other writers/artists in a room. I get inspired that way. Writing can be so isolating and so much of what I love about the theater has to do with community and collaboration.
2. What are your inspirations for your work?
Oh, there are so many! Some are obvious and cliché. But I’m a playwright, so I think Tony Kushner has probably had the most impact on my work. The idea that the political, historical and personal intersect all the time comes from him (and Shakespeare).
Also, Paula Vogel, Caryl Churchill, the late Israeli playwright Hanoch Levin, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Suzan Lori-Parks, Beckett. I mean the list is endless.
I love dance, too, modern dance in particular.
My daughter is another source of inspiration. She’s two years old and not at all attached to outcome yet. She’ll draw something and then draw all over it. She’ll build whole worlds and destroy them in seconds. She’s a constant reminder that everything is play, and that I should stay in the moment.
And my husband, Andrew Polk. He’s not just a gifted actor, but he’s probably one of the hardest working artists I know. He reminds me that we have to constantly practice our craft no matter what happens “out there.”
3. There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as distractions, self-doubt and fear of failure. What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
Oh all of them do. A LOT.
Rejection is big, too; fear is HUGE; and let’s be honest, Facebook.
Also, I’m a mom now, so my days and my routines are completely different than what they used to be. There’s a lot more overwhelm. But, in some other way, there’s a lot more focus, too.
4. How do you overcome these obstacles?
I text a friend and say I’m going to write for the next hour, no Internet, no phone. I talk to other creative moms to hear how they do it. I try to be conscious of my time and my schedule.
I say no a lot, which is no fun. But I find it really helps me focus on what’s important.
I ask for help and support. I really can’t do this alone.
5. What are some of your favorite resources on creativity?
Julia Cameron and Julia Cameron and Julia Cameron. I’m loving Kelly Rae Roberts these days; she’s just so cool and inspiring. So is Jennifer Lee and her Right Brain Business Plan book. Sark is fun, too, and I have a few dancers’ biographies I love, including Martha Graham and Isadora Duncan. Twyla Tharp’s book [also] is great.
6. What is your favorite way to get your creative juices flowing?
Dancing, for sure. I also love collages and, like I said, I can’t do anything without music and, if I’m honest, caffeine.
7. What’s your advice for readers on cultivating creativity?
Just do it. Or my little inventions: JSU – Just Show Up or JHO – Just Hang Out.
Nothing happens until I actually get started. I can spend whole days thinking about it and worrying about it. But the magic happens when my butt’s in the chair, and my fingers are on the keyboard.
8. Anything else you’d like readers to know about creativity.
You can start right now. It will be worth it.