Thursday, June 12, 2014

Moments of Conception 021 -- The Typing Scene from Finding Forrester

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 apartment scene in Finding Forrester:

What can we learn?

The mind is a terrible office. The romantic notion that an artist is working when he’s staring out the window is true, but it’s not the principal work unit. Stuffing our eyes with wonder is essential for inspiration, but eventually, we have to make the word flesh. We have to extract what’s inside of us, lest we think ourselves into a corner. It’s like my therapist used to tell me, don’t just sit in bed thinking, go think on paper. Experience your ideas kinesthetically. Whatever is rising up from within your depths, just get it down. Judgment comes later. Forrester says the first key to writing is to write. Which sounds like one of those super unsatisfying zen koans that falls somewhere between no shit and oh really, but the advice couldn’t be more lucid. Regardless of the medium, the first step in doing anything is to just do that thing. Anything else is procrastination in disguise. Every moment we’re just thinking about something, the idea is actually dying. It’s deprived of the oxygen of documentation. We have to start punching those keys.

Befriend simplicity. Jamal’s face in this scene is priceless. Forrester challenges his preconceptions and rocks him to his very core. He isn’t just receiving lesson on writing, he’s witnessing a meditation on human nature. The first key to writing is to write? Could it really be that simple? You bet your ascot. The problem is, our species loves to overcomplicate things. Complexity feels like progress. It helps us preserve the illusion of productivity. And it overcompensates for our shortcomings and insecurities. But the reality is, the creative process is alarmingly simple. It’s input, throughput and output. It’s inhale, pause and exhale. It’s inspiration, organization and distribution. Three steps. Nothing more, nothing less. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a chef selling pizza with goat cheese and truffles. Forrester is the real deal. Like a good mentor, he doesn’t preach, he models. And because his hands are dirty, because he’s literally putting words on paper before his student’s very eyes, that makes him right.

Participating in the energy exchange. The score adds a subtle layer of poignancy to the scene. This particular song was written by Ornette Coleman, one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the sixties. I just love the way the music starts at the same time as the typewriter. It’s the perfect parallel. Jazz, after all, is about cocreation. Riffing back and forth. Borrowing energy from the people around you. Who’s to say writing can’t feel the same way? I’m reminded of when I served on the board of directors of a publishing association. During my presidency, I hosted quarterly writing marathons. Fifteen of us would literally sit in a room and write for eight straight hours, stopping only to eat and pee. It was goddamned magical. Like an all day silent jazz concert. Words poured out of people like melted butter. Writers who hadn’t produced in months were suddenly prolific. In fact, I’ll never forget when my chronically blocked friend told me during lunch: Watching you type motivates me. Cool, daddyo. Another reminder to not only pay attention to what you do that gives you energy, but what you do that gives other people energy.

What's did this moment of conception teach you?