Thursday, June 19, 2014

Moments of Conception 027 -- Julie & Julia

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 dinner scene in Julie and Julia:


What can we learn?


Follow effort, not passion. Julie works at the call center of a city development corporation. Her job primarily consists of answering phone calls from scared, grieving, angry victims of the twin towers attacks and attempting to provide them with resources and direction. And so, by the time she gets home after an emotionally draining day at work, all she wants to do is cook. To disappear from the world. To drop an existential anchor, enter into her creative territory and experience pure freedom. Cooking, for her, is the meaningful and engaging activity that recalibrates the soul and rebalances her above the precipice of meaninglessness. This is a profound realization. Julie is starting to understand the rich context of meaning around the activity of cooking. And that provokes her motivation. Therein, then, lies the secret to discipline. Making an activity existentially painful not to do. Arranging your life in a way that it actually becomes easier to just say yes and get to work. If you were the last person on earth, what would you still do everyday?
Permission is the preventer of progress.
A few years ago, I wrote a daily devotional on my favorite topic, execution. The central theme throughout the book was how people can overcome the problem of permission, meaning, any mental construct of notenoughness that deadlocks progress. Julie personifies this creative challenge beautifully. Since a major publishing house didn’t pick up her novel, she doesn’t give herself permission to be a real writer. Since she wasn’t a celebrity chef with her own product line and global name recognition, she doesn’t giving herself permission to be a real cook. Eric, on the other hand, reminds her that every great chess player was once a beginner. That we don’t have to be great to get started, but we have to get started to be great. He convinces her to reject the tyranny of being picked. To stop waiting to be discovered. And to just go online, press publish, and there it is. She’s a writer. She’s a cook. It’s real. And nobody can take that away from her. That’s the beauty of technology. It pulverized the problem of permission and paved a way for her to step into her rightful identity. How are you manufacturing your own big breaks?

Behind every famous creator is a fabulous mirror
. Most great ideas are just waiting to be talked out of. It kind of breaks my heart, but that’s the way humans are wired. We’re always the last to recognize our own value. Julie, of course, uses every trick in the book to deflect her husband’s brainstorm. It won’t work. It sounds boring. It might get me fired. It’s not my place. It’s not possible. But notice, he stays with her. Spoken like a true editor, he keeps probing and challenging and suggesting and affirming, cutting through his wife’s inevitable layers of creative doubt. And eventually, once all the excuses and permission and hesitations melt away, there’s nothing left but a great idea. This scene couldn’t be more honest. Conversations like this happen at dinner tables every night to every couple. The question is, are you willing to be a good mirror? Someone who shows others what they can’t see for themselves. Someone who believes in people more than they believe in themselves. Hope so. Because without you, we’re just starving artists playing basketball without a backboard. When was the last time you served as a sounding board for someone you loved?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?