Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Moments of Conception 013 -- The Writing Scene from Eight Mile

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 lyric scene in Eight Mile:

What can we learn?

The user interface of your brain.
Jimmy’s bus commute is a fixture in his writing process. It’s a trusted, consistent structure that triggers his creative focus. A portable creative environment that helps him snap into work mode and make the word flesh. Because all he really needs is a pen, paper, headphones­­––and a landscape of pain, poverty and hard times––to inspire his work. It’s not the most glamorous of workspaces. Detroit busses aren’t known as exemplars of cleanliness, productivity and relaxation. But then again, Jimmy is writing rap lyrics. Considering hip hop is musical genre historically rooted in suffering and struggle, the scenery is actually quite perfect. And so, the scratch paper he pulls out of his pocket, along with the music pumping through his ears, become the associative triggers that give him a sense of control and stability and comfort. He’s in harmony with the small slice of the universe in which he finds himself. And by convening day after day in the same space at the same time, a powerful energy builds up around him. Because he loses himself in the music, the moment, he owns it, and he never lets it go.

Become an idea foreman. Lose Yourself is one of my favorite songs of all time. I used to rock out to it in the bathroom before giving speeches. That’s why I love this scene. It’s not just an inspiring tune, it’s an honest depiction of the songwriting process. I’ve been writing music for twenty years, and in my experience, this is almost exactly how it happens. There’s a specific melody and rhythm thumping through your head, and you just keep replaying it over and over and over until the words finally match up. It’s frustrating, time consuming and the people around you think you’re insane. But it’s all part of the process. Jimmy is walking the factory floor. He’s taking a casual, curious and thoughtful sweep of every idea he’s recently accumulated. He’s managing his inventory. And over time, his lyrical ideas slowly arise from combining many disparate words and phrases and concepts from his notes. His creative inventory may appear raw and disorganized, but it’s actually quite brilliant.

Creating a self to express. Jimmy is man of grit, determination and anger. But in the presence of his adorable kid sister, he’s also a man of tenderness. A man who seeks a better life for the next generation. A man who’s loyal to those who look up to him. And so, he crafts his song next to his sister’s crib for several reasons. First, out of motivation. Because what he’s creating isn’t as important as why he’s creating it and whom he’s creating it for. Second, out of inspiration. Because in the child’s eyes, he sees a purity and innocence he lost long ago. Third, out of recalibration. Because his sister’s room is joyful, human space that brings coherence back to his life. And finally, out of obligation. Because he lives in an inner city trailer park with alcoholic and abusive parents. Jimmy’s there to protect his sister. His muse. His purpose. Ultimately, these emotions, environments and experiences are the very ingredients that inform his music.

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?