Sunday, July 06, 2014

Moments of Conception 042 -- The Cursing Scene from The King's Speech

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 swearing scene in The King's Speech:



What can we learn?


Discomfort is the activator of action. Carlin once gave an interview about approaching comedy from the side door. Meaning, he would come at the material in a direction the audience wasn’t expecting, to help them see things in a different way. It’s a clever strategy for idea communication, no doubt. And if you apply the general principle, it’s also applicable to idea inspiration. In this scene, the speech therapist notices something about the king’s creative process. Vulgarity is the side door to fluency. Swearing is the trump card to stammering. Anger is the wormhole to eloquence. And so, instead of practicing muscle relaxation and breath control techniques, he comes at the king from an unexpected direction. He forces him to talk dirty. Which, as we all know, isn’t how kings behave. Especially during wartime. These people are royalty. Paragons of properness. The public should never be exposed to their more tasteless tendencies. It’s bad form. But the therapist knows it’s the only way in. By forcing the king to say words that make him uncomfortable, it stretches him psychologically. That’s how he’s able to make a breakthrough. Perhaps getting into a creative zone starts by getting out of a comfortable one. What three situations make you the most uncomfortable?

Change your definitions, change you world. I have a friend with a brilliant concept for a novel. But like a lot of creators, all of his ideas are trapped inside his head. They’ve taken up permanent residence in his psyche and have no intention of coming out. What’s more, the physical act of writing gives him anxiety. For him, putting words on paper is like pulling teeth with a crescent wrench. Understood. But the reality is, all he really needs is an updated understanding of what writing is. That’s another side door to prolificacy. Increasing output by expanding the definition of the process. Lionel changes the king’s definition of what a speech can be. By forcing him to curse and yell and pace and purge his emotions––in a container of safety and freedom of course––the king reaches a level of raw honesty in his work, physically transforms in the room and catches a glimpse of what’s possible. And all he did was change his definition. Lionel may have been hired to help the king prepare his first wartime radio broadcast, but what he really did was equip the king to spot a new story with his own eyes. Which of your definitions need to be revised?

Lower the threat level. When I mentor young artists, I tell them that the goal isn’t to change who you are into somebody different, it’s to channel who you are into something different. That’s the last side door to creativity. Lowering the threat level of the work by changing its context. Take speech recognition software. For a hundred bucks, you can buy a program that lets you say words as they magically appear on your screen. That’s it. It’s a marvel of modern technology. King George would have cursed up a storm. But consider how many creative threats this one program wipes out. Boredom? Now the mundane task of writing is more enjoyable. Disengagement? Now you’ve changed the way you interact with your computer. Speed? Now you can flesh out ideas at the speed of thought. Proficiency? Now your slow typing and poor spelling don’t have to delay your progress. Comfort? Now you can use your computer in a relaxed, ergonomic way without being tied to your keyboard and mouse. And all we’ve changed is the context. Not the content. Not the creator. Just the context. Which hundred dollar technology will make your creative process a hundred times easier?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?