Monday, June 23, 2014

Moments of Conception 031 -- The Cookie Scene from Stranger Than Fiction

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 cookie scene in Stranger Than Fiction:


What can we learn?

Scratch your own itch. Most law students spend seven hours a day just studying. That requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus and endurance. And of course, cookies. Ana’s necessity, then, literally became the mother of invention. But in addition to solving the immediate problem, two other outcomes rippled out from the center. First, she discovered an unconscious competency. Baking. It had become second nature for her. Second, she added a new meaningful facet to her identity. Treats. That’s what people knew her for. And so, this new combination of skill and reputation is what gave her the courage to quit law school and pursue baking as a full time career. All because a bunch of her friends were hungry. Funny what we learn about ourselves when we get thrown into necessity. What will happen when you become more than what you’re known for?

Once you’ve got some, you can get some. On one hand, nobody wants to wait for the rest of the world to tell them their work is okay. As I learned in the book Art & Fear, courting approval puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. On the other hand, if you never share your work with people, you’re just winking in the dark. As my mentor once said, eventually you have to get out of the garage and go out and play for people. Ana is in the ideal situation to make this transition. Her study group affords her a built in platform of people she likes, trusts and sees weekly who are overworked and underfed. So she gives it a shot. Which can be a terrifying prospect. But as an artist, you can never fully anticipate how your audience is going to react to your creation until it’s out of your head and into their hands. The exciting part is, once your work passes through the crucible of real usage, with real people who offer real feedback, you just might hear the door to your future opening. What audience can help your work get counted as the real thing?

Live in, and produce for, a specific audience. Idealists prioritize values over vehicles. Their message of making the world a better place is more important than the medium through which that goal is accomplished. Meaning, they’re going to leave this cosmic campsite better than they found it, regardless of the type of work they do. Ana is the type of person who undoubtedly would have made the world a better place as an attorney. Harvard would have given her the tools and she would have delivered justice. And that would have been a rewarding, successful journey. But it turns out, her highest idealistic vehicle, the territory where her creativity felt at home, wasn’t standing up for the public, it was baking for them. It’s not as glamorous. It doesn’t pay as well. And the platform is significantly smaller. But changing the world doesn’t always have to happen on a massive scale. Sometimes it can be as simple as baking cookies for your hungry, overworked friends. Idealism isn’t about passing legislation, it’s about finding the small corner of the world that you can touch, making it perfect, and setting it free. Whose life is better because you love them?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?