Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Moments of Conception 019 -- Throw Mama From The Train

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 typing scene in Throw Mama From The Train:


What can we learn?

Establish a gentle flow that obfuscates procrastination. Larry is living under the proverbial piano on a rope. After his wife stole his last novel and garnered mainstream success and critical acclaim, he struggles with horrible writer’s block. And what I love about this scene is, it’s a wildly honest and accurate look at the life of a writer. It’s lonely. It’s quiet. It’s just you and the work. However, there’s a misconception. Facing the blank page seems like an iconic, romantic and inspiring experience. The freedom. The potential. The power. But the reality is, most artists experience it as an intimidating, frustrating and painful part of the creative process. The blazing island of white, as the cartoonists call it. And so, day after day, artists plop down in front of that empty canvas, hoping to somehow will the art out of them, and they end up torturing themselves. Sometimes to death. Prolific creators, on the other hand, take a different approach. They dig their creative well before they’re thirsty. The fortify their intellectual inventory with an organized, trusted and robust content management system. That way, their process of creation isn’t driven and dictated by time pressure alone. And they never have to worry about facing a blank page in the first place.

Never underestimate the creativity of avoidance. We all have the equivalent to a blank page in our lives. And we all have our private arsenal of spectator sports and shadow projects to avoid confronting it. We invent things to outsource to preserve the illusion of productivity. We artfully create constant distractions instead of working. We jack ourselves off on social media to satisfy our bottomless need for validation and approval. We creatively convince our colleagues and competitors that we’re busier than we really are. And we react to digital fidgets that are really just everyone else’s agenda for our time. Larry prefers using scotch tape to give himself a homemade pig face. Anything to avoid working. What’s amazing is, all of these surrogate activities, these inventive procrastinations and addictions of the self, require energy and creativity. Meaning, we just as easily could have burned those calories creating something from whole cloth. Making something that shows people how we see life. Perhaps creative blocks are simply a matter of energy misappropriation.

Keep creative production going. Writers At Work is a series of books that contains candid conversations with some of the world’s great contemporary novelists. Something I noticed after reading several of them consecutively was, these guys used to write letters. Piles of them. Every single day. But not just to correspond with readers, colleagues and critics, but to get the creative faucet flowing. To pump oil into the machine. To fuel their ability to execute. To keep production going. Snail mail correspondence ensured there was something going on all the time, not just the moment they sit down and decide to start working. And so, whatever your principal work unit is, whether it’s taking pictures or painting landscapes or composing songs, consider finding a preliminary trigger to activate the process. Something simple, easy and incremental to grow your executional victory bank. Once that becomes a daily discipline, by the time you make your way to the blazing island of white, going to work will feel threatening. Remember, if you can’t remove the poison, blunt its sting.

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?