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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Moments of Conception 062 -- The Plate Scene from Chocolat

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.


And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the plate scene in Chocolat:



What can we learn?

Channeling personality in the service of creativity. Vianne is a creative, friendly, nonjudgmental, atheist single mother with an illegitimate child and a provocative wardrobe. That’s one hell of a combination. But what’s interesting is, so is her chocolate. Her confections use cacao, chili powder and other exotic ingredients. Which, in a town where abstinence is king, her chocolate wins over the closed hearts of the stuffy petite bourgeoisie. This movie, then, is a case study of identity based creation. Vianne integrates the whole of her personality into every piece of chocolate she makes. She taps into her instincts for matching the perfect treat to each customer’s need. And ultimately, that’s how she’s able to find a home for herself and her daughter in the village. It’s an inspiring tale of social acceptance and individuality. As one reviewer said, apparently chocolate can cure mental illness, restore marital passion, unite feuding relatives, assuage anger, defeat oppression, inspire art and get you a date. Good enough for me. What if your creative process was a game to see which part of yourself you could bring to work every day?

Cross my palm with silver. Artists are notoriously poor businesspeople. We’d rather be heard than paid. We’d rather make history than make money. We’d rather change the world than charge a fee. But the reality is, every product must be sold. Every artist must go out and meet marketplace and ask customers for money. Even if we feel guilty about demanding compensation for our work, even if we experience anxiety when we assign monetary value to our intellectual property, if we don’t admit that we’re in business for ourselves, we’re finished. The secret is to enlist the unique aspects of our personality to enhance our ability to sell. To make the dreaded commerce component easier to swallow. Vianne uses the mosaic wheel. It’s essentially an ink blot test for chocolate. Patrons give the wheel a playful spin, say what they see, and she identifies the perfect chocolate for them. It’s playful, alluring and unexpected, just like her. It’s a device that surprises and delights and intrigues customers in spite of themselves, just like her. Most importantly, it’s an effective tool for driving sales. Period. Vianne poured her heart into this chocolate to make it great, and she isn’t afraid put a price on it and ask people to buy it. How are you exercising your personality in the selling arena?

We can smell our own. There’s a powerful thematic undercurrent of community in this movie. As it says in the original screenplay, if you lived in this village, you understood what was expected of you. You knew your place in the scheme of things. And if you happened to forget, someone would remind you. Belonging, after all, means having people expect something of you, and caring about what that expectation is. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially for creators who tend to live inside their own heads. Vianne’s journey as an artist, then, is more than just designing her own kind of chocolate, but also discovering her own kind of community. At the end of the film, just when she resolves to move to another village, the townspeople who have come to love her, convince her to stay. Because her work is needed there. Vivian is the enchanting rock people can count on. Her value is desirable to the point of absolute necessity. And so, she takes up permanent residence in the village. Emerson was right. Make yourself necessary to the world, and mankind will give you bread. To whom is your art essential?

What did you learn?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Moments of Conception 061 -- The Jigiwatt Scene from Back to the Future

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.


And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the jigiwatt scene in Back to the Future:



What can we learn?


When in doubt, use nature. Back in the fifties, there were only a handful of ways to generate that much electricity. Doc could tie the car to a hydroelectric dam, build a turbine on the back of the motor, or race the car off the edge of a massive waterfall. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the time, resources or clearance to employ those kinds of strategies. But what he did have was a weather event. Literally, a bolt of lightning. Proving, that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Einstein was right. Also proving, that the imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man. Feynman said that. And so, whenever we’re faced with a creative block, the smart thing to do is design systems and structures that invite nature as our collaborator. To align our work with its geometric order and rhythm of the natural universe. Because once we learn how to harness that lightning and channel it into the flux capacitor known as our brains, there’s no limit to what we can do. How did nature solve this same problem?

Make yourself more strikeable. The problem with lightning is, you never know where or when it’s going to strike. Nature is unpredictable like that. The job of the creator, then, is to actually become the lightning rod. To provide an easy path for creativity to find its way to his brain, lest its electricity dissipates harmlessly to the ground. Because inspiration, while helpful when it shows up, most of the time, needs to be yanked out of hiding. You have to create it, channel it, command it and commit to meeting it halfway. And if it decides to take the day off, you have to go over to its house, beat down the door, drag its ass out of bed at put it work. That’s something all prolific creators have in common. They don’t wait on inspiration, they work on discipline. Personally, anytime I find I’m having trouble writing, I can usually trace to not having read enough. Because sentences are my lightning rods. What are yours?

Everything is fair game. Marty would have been stuck in past without that flyer about the clock tower. Thank god he never threw it away. But that’s the value of being entirely open and vulnerable to every shred of stimuli that crosses your path. Even trash. You never know where you might use it. In fact, my entire career was born out of a nametag I saw in a trashcan. That was my moment of conception. Do you remember yours? If not, perhaps you’re not paying close enough attention. Because if you want the world to arrange itself for your creative work, you have to become a master of deep democracy. To allow anything you think, everyone you meet, and everything you experience become part of your professional life. That’s how artists create from the inside out. They work as the convergence of everything that’s ever happened to them. All devouring mental omnivores. How often you overlook people, places or experiences that might offer meaningful ideas?

Share your favorite movie moment of conception in the comments section!


* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter. 
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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Email to inquire about fees and availability. Watch clips of The Nametag Guy in action here!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Moments of Conception 060 -- The Sirius Scene from The Truman Show

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.


And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the sirius scene in Truman Show:



What can we learn?

Keep them happy and ignorant. Truman literally lives in a constructed reality. His life is broadcast around the clock to billions of people across the globe. But once he gains sufficient awareness of his condition, the movie starts to take a strangely psychological, even political turn. Truman is waking up and stumbling towards salvation. Hence the falling light and shattered glass. Symbolically, it couldn’t be more appropriate. It's a reminder of how the powers that be will always try keep us small, scared and dreamless; dissuading our sense of exploration, preventing us from discovering our false realities. Because the last thing they want is for us to activate our imaginations. To become suspicious of our perceived reality. Fortunately, humans created art to combat this battle. To embark on a quest to discover the truth about our lives. To give ourselves a slant on the game that’s being played on us. Truman represents an awakening that’s possible in every one of us. Whom are you allowing to soften the fibers of your spirit?

Readiness to wreck everything. Truman is stepping into a more mature and authentic identity. Every scene becomes a chisel with which he chips away at the sculpture inside the stone. And by the time he reaches the end of the known world, you can’t help but cheer him on. It’s a powerful meditation for artists undergoing the process of reinvention. But it’s also a warning about the slings and arrows that accompany it. Truman may be waking up to what’s true about himself, but not everybody wants him to be successful. They’re too invested in keeping him where he is. They want him to remain frozen in the position they met him in. That’s why they feel disenfranchised by his awakening. And so, as they feel the foreign nature of his behavior, they start to attack like white blood cells fighting an infection. Funny how reinvention elicits that reaction from people. But it’s human nature. Other people have no incentive to see you change. And once you do, they almost don’t even know how to relate to you anymore. Who is resisting your journey to explore new ways of being an artist?

Try thinking your own thoughts. Peter Weir famously said that The Truman Show was a dangerous film to make because it couldn’t actually happen. Little did he know, his movie was disturbingly prophetic. It premiered in the late nineties, when reality television was on the rise. And yet, two decades later, the film doesn’t seem like science fiction at all. It could just as easily be another reality show we fetishize. But what bothers me the most is, television is the polar opposite of creativity. It’s leading someone else’s life for a short period of time. And yet, millions people live this way. They spend thirty hours a week thinking other people’s thoughts, walking through someone else’s museum. Meanwhile, recent research reports that the number of non book readers has nearly tripled since the late seventies. This isn’t good for our brains. My mentor once said that the purpose of books was to trap your mind into doing its own thinking. But nobody seems to care anymore. Too many shows in the queue. And my fear is that we’ve literally become zombies. We’ve forgotten how to think our own thoughts. Are you joining the playing field of creation or the smorgasbord of consumption?


What's your favorite moment of conception?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Moments of Conception 059 -- The Jump to Conclusions Scene from Office Space

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.


And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the jump to conclusions scene in Office Space:

What can we learn?

The attraction of working, the arrogance of waiting. Every creator is looking that one big idea, the one that earns millions and changes the world and sets them up for the rest of their life. But while it’s fun to fantasize about, it’s ultimately a waste of time. Most of the crazy ideas that changed the world actually started out as mistakes, accidents, coincidences, serendipity, jokes or experiments. The guy who invented the pet rock wasn’t tinkering at his workbench all day, searching for his ticket to riches. He was sitting at a bar listening to his friends complain about their pets, which gave him the idea for the perfect pet that would never need to be fed, walked, bathed, groomed and would never die, become sick, or be disobedient. That’s the way creativity works. The more you tighten your grip, the more it will slip through your fingers. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you. It’s more like a zen koan than a scavenger hunt. And so, if we have any intention of making art that lasts, better to keep focused hand on the present than a compulsive eye on the future. It’s all there in front of us, but if we try too hard to see it, we’ll only become confused. How can you invite creativity to come and sit softly on your shoulder?

Tone your hot body. Tom doesn’t realize that creativity is about having one big idea, it’s about sustaining a steady stream of ideas. Nothing against one hit wonders, one idea does not a career make. Prolific creators have an entire mountain of gold to mine, not just nugget to milk for a lifetime. In fact, what most people don’t know about Gary Dahl, the guy who invented the pet rock, was that he was also an award winning copywriter, creative director and advertising agency owner. Meaning, over the course of his career, he probably had tens of thousands of ideas. Many of which were bad. But he kept producing, every single day, because he knew that the best way to see a good idea was to stand on a compost pile of bad ones. Prolificacy then, is the intentional goal; but innovation is incidental result. Truth is, I may have made my career as the nametag guy, but only because I left behind a wake of failed attempts at dozens of other quirky identity experiments. And so, creativity is often a matter of volume plus time. Building a product that sticks out by being a person who sticks around. How hot is your body of work?

If you are only creating for glory, you have already failed. Tom isn’t trying to change the world with his invention, he just doesn’t want to work ever again. That’s no reason t make art. No wonder his idea is doomed from the beginning. Not only because the product trite and useless, but also because there’s no substance behind it. I’m reminded of poet laureate James Dickey, who said that the most important thing is to be excited about what you are doing. To be working on something that you think will be the greatest thing that ever was. Because the difficulty in writing poetry, he said, was to maintain a sense of excitement and discovery about what you were working on. Tom could have used some of that juice. We all could. Considering the inevitable doubts and setbacks and failures of the creative process, there’s no chemical substitute for enthusiasm. If we have enough horsepower under the hood, we can usually get ourselves out if the mud. How are you investing your passion and bravery where there previously was none?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Moments of Conception 058 -- The Pigeon Scene from Last Crusade

All creativity begins with the moment of conception.

That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.


And so, in this new blog series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.

Today's clip comes from the pigeon scene in Indian Jones & The Last Crusade:



What can we learn?

Everything is grist for the creative mill. In the problem solving process, our first instinct is to look for answers externally. But in most cases, the answer lies within. Something we already know is precisely what we need to find the solution. It’s simply a matter of trusting our resources. Believing we are well equipped to handle our creative challenges. Henry, a lifelong scholar of history, suddenly remembers an inspiring quotation from a famous historical figure. And so, he bridges, seeking connections and noticing natural relationships between that reference and his current situation. That’s what gives him the idea to take down the nazi airplane with an umbrella and a flock of pigeons. And as the propeller shreds the birds into a feathery white puree and clogs the engine, it all makes sense. Henry’s entire life has prepared him for this very moment. His expansive landscape of interconnected knowledge and experiences has made him a powerful recombinant thinker and inventor. All he needed was the right moment into which he could compress that training. What do you already know that will help you solve this problem?

Create without a crutch. Henry is a scholar. A man who fights battles with his mind. Someone who doesn’t require an automatic weapon or a custom retractable hang gliding spy gadget to defeat the enemy. Just an ordinary umbrella and a little help from nature. That’s about as low tech as you can get. It’s a humbling reminder that creativity isn’t always about having the right equipment. In fact, there’s no historical relationship between technology and innovation. That’s like the amateur golfer trying to buy a lower score with a titanium driver. The reality is, if you really had an amazing swing and a deep understanding of the game, you could shoot par with a rusty set of rented clubs. Real artists work the same way. They can create anytime, anywhere. People who refuse to go to work unless the have the right tools are unprofessional hack procrastinators. True art is equipment agnostic. Which of your own excuses are you falling in love with?

Walk with the wise. Indiana wears a proud expression as he sees his father in a new light. Even he can admit, that was pretty cool. And as he watches his father’s cheeky stride on the beach, using the very umbrella he just saved their lives with to shield the sun, he realizes how inspirational this moment truly is. In fact, the actual meaning of the word inspiration is to arouse reverence. And one of the ways we do that is to surround ourselves with people who challenge and inspire us. To play with those who raise our game. Because there are three kinds of people in the world: Those who make us less than we are, those who keep us where we are, and those who push us to what we might become. And so, next time we’re wondering why our creative output is lagging, it’s often because our human input is lacking. Perhaps it’s time to prune the hedges. Are you willing to personally amputate anyone who doesn’t believe in or support you?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

23 Tools to Help You Become More Prolific

In the past several months, I’ve shared various pieces of The Prolific Framework, a new program that guides people through the art and science of collecting, creating and communicating their ideas.

A key component to that system is learning and employing a robust vocabulary of creativity. It’s a language that permits you to communicate with yourself and others about the creative process, helps you make sense of the otherwise ambiguous world of creativity, empowers you to speak a language that supports your intentions, and allows you to conceptualize and describe your experience of creating.

Ultimately, I want you to build a lexicon of words and phrases that allow you to converse about creativity. By building a working vocabulary of being prolific, you significantly better your chances of managing the creative process. 

So far, I’ve already shared two extensive lists of useful phrases to guide yourself through the creative process, which can be found here and here. But as I continue to publish my moments of conception case studies, each of which deconstruct an inspiring scene from a popular movie, the glossary continues to expand.


Here are about twenty new words to add to your creative vocabulary. 

Flash cards ready?

Aggressive pondering. Deliberately creating a situation or framed experience in order to have an arena in which to work out an unresolved issue.

Artist debt.
Periods when we become disconnected from our primary creative joy and fail to achieve our quota of artistic usefulness.

Bridging. The art of making connections and noticing natural relationships between seemingly unrelated ideas.

Containment
. The balance between safeguarding your artistic vision to protect intellectual property and passionately sharing your ideas with the world.

Creative uniform.
A wearable identity totem that prompts a work mindset and sets a tone that says to your brain, work happens now.

Critical number.
Objectifying your work by boiling it down to one thing that’s clean, simple and easy to calculate, something that functions as a proxy to do the heavy lifting for you.

Domain transferring
. Bringing ideas from one field of knowledge into another by asking, what else is like this?

Eventfulness.
The decisive interaction in which a trusted friend compels an artist to make a key change or take a massive risk in their creative life.

Filter.
A small, repeatable and portable filter that helps you make sense of the people you meet quickly and accurately.

Good low.
When life hands us a pile of shit, we strategically convert that experience into creative resources of energy, fertility and happiness.

Homebase.
A place or community where you can commune with your your fellow artists and lock into the historical, societal and institutional frameworks of your creative world.

Intrinsic triggers.
A unique set of inputs that stoke your creative fire. Little moments that let you clothespin a piece of stimuli onto your psyche for further evaluation.

Kindred spirits. Fellow creative people with resonant identities who maintain a shorthand for a shared culture.

Neighbor.
Something that already exists the audience’s head that becomes a mental hook upon which you can hang future ideas.

Operational farsightedness.
Due to our utter dedication to wider market demands, we fail to note the needs of our intimate ecosystem.

Outofstepness.
A sense of feeling unhoused and not fully at home in the world, but a desire to make art to make sense of that world.

Paper thinking.
Experiencing your ideas kinesthetically by writing down whatever is rising up from within your depths, saving judgment for later.

Placeholder. A surrogate piece of content that helps budget time and keep production going until a better idea comes along.  

Preliminary trigger.
A simple, easy and incremental tool that activates the creative process and grows your executional victory bank.

Stalling maneuver.
Buying yourself time in group meetings, interviews and presentations, so that you can collect your thoughts and build anticipation around your message. 

Timing.
When luck takes the form of a confluence of events, including the right person, the right place, the right time, the right product, the right audience, the right context and the right leverage.

Wherewithal.
Everything creator need to buttress the opportunity to make art, including knowledge, resources and courage.

Whitespace.
Defining yourself by the work you decline, so as to avoid the erosion of your time, the decay of your focus and the meaninglessness of your work.

Happy creating!