Saturday, July 26, 2014

Moments of Conception 059 -- The Jump to Conclusions Scene from Office Space

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 jump to conclusions scene in Office Space:

What can we learn?

The attraction of working, the arrogance of waiting. Every creator is looking that one big idea, the one that earns millions and changes the world and sets them up for the rest of their life. But while it’s fun to fantasize about, it’s ultimately a waste of time. Most of the crazy ideas that changed the world actually started out as mistakes, accidents, coincidences, serendipity, jokes or experiments. The guy who invented the pet rock wasn’t tinkering at his workbench all day, searching for his ticket to riches. He was sitting at a bar listening to his friends complain about their pets, which gave him the idea for the perfect pet that would never need to be fed, walked, bathed, groomed and would never die, become sick, or be disobedient. That’s the way creativity works. The more you tighten your grip, the more it will slip through your fingers. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you. It’s more like a zen koan than a scavenger hunt. And so, if we have any intention of making art that lasts, better to keep focused hand on the present than a compulsive eye on the future. It’s all there in front of us, but if we try too hard to see it, we’ll only become confused. How can you invite creativity to come and sit softly on your shoulder?

Tone your hot body. Tom doesn’t realize that creativity is about having one big idea, it’s about sustaining a steady stream of ideas. Nothing against one hit wonders, one idea does not a career make. Prolific creators have an entire mountain of gold to mine, not just nugget to milk for a lifetime. In fact, what most people don’t know about Gary Dahl, the guy who invented the pet rock, was that he was also an award winning copywriter, creative director and advertising agency owner. Meaning, over the course of his career, he probably had tens of thousands of ideas. Many of which were bad. But he kept producing, every single day, because he knew that the best way to see a good idea was to stand on a compost pile of bad ones. Prolificacy then, is the intentional goal; but innovation is incidental result. Truth is, I may have made my career as the nametag guy, but only because I left behind a wake of failed attempts at dozens of other quirky identity experiments. And so, creativity is often a matter of volume plus time. Building a product that sticks out by being a person who sticks around. How hot is your body of work?

If you are only creating for glory, you have already failed. Tom isn’t trying to change the world with his invention, he just doesn’t want to work ever again. That’s no reason t make art. No wonder his idea is doomed from the beginning. Not only because the product trite and useless, but also because there’s no substance behind it. I’m reminded of poet laureate James Dickey, who said that the most important thing is to be excited about what you are doing. To be working on something that you think will be the greatest thing that ever was. Because the difficulty in writing poetry, he said, was to maintain a sense of excitement and discovery about what you were working on. Tom could have used some of that juice. We all could. Considering the inevitable doubts and setbacks and failures of the creative process, there’s no chemical substitute for enthusiasm. If we have enough horsepower under the hood, we can usually get ourselves out if the mud. How are you investing your passion and bravery where there previously was none?

What's your favorite movie moment of conception?