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 bar scene in Into the Wild:
What can we learn?
Use baitless hooks. Edison famously built his own private fishing pier so he could have a place to be alone with his thoughts each day. What’s interesting his, he never used bait. Just a hook. That’s how process oriented he was. That’s how detached from outcomes he was. To him, fishing wasn’t about reeling in dinner, it was about reveling in the experience. Alex seeks a similar existence. A life of single minded immersion. His dream is to trade his traditional achievement orientation––working as a means for achieving an ends––for his coveted adventure orientation, which is living in the moment and being one with nature. And so, the question becomes, can the modern artist live this way? Can the creator of ideas, a responsible person who wants to make art but also wants to pay the bills, afford to fish with baitless hooks? It’s hard to say. Because you can’t neglect your basic needs. Everyone has to resolve the problem of livelihood. And that’s the challenge with transcendentalism. It’s romantic and admirable and interesting, but not always the most practical way to live. How do you balance your need for achievement with your desire for adventure?
Love the work more than what it produces. Making an idea real takes consistent, persistent application of energy toward that idea. And that takes time. Lots of it. And so, for the sake of our sanities, we may as well discover the ecstasy within the process itself. We may as well embrace the sublime joy of seeing things come together to produce an artistic whole. Detaching from outcomes in this way help keep us focused on the creative process, not what creativity produces. In fact, contemporary flow research shows that creators and performers are actually motivated by the quality of the experience they feel when they are involved with the activity, not the end result. They operate from an autotelic mindset, meaning they enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Alex is an inspiring example of someone completely engrossed in the moment. Someone who knows the journey is the destination. I’m reminded of something my mentor used to say. It’s not the book, it’s the person you become by writing it. And the best part is, that principle applies to any creative project. Because the medium we’re working with is ourselves. Is the present moment your friend or your enemy?
A look back at all those times the world didn’t end. This movie stirs up boundary issues for me. Alex reminds me to always wonder, is this an opportunity, or an opportunity to be used? Is this going to bring me closer to success, or is this everyone else’s agenda for my time? Boundaries, after all, determine how others will treat us. They define what we are and are not responsible for. And if we don’t set them for ourselves, others will set them for us. Most artists struggle with this issue at one time or another. They’re terrified of containing the access people have to them, depriving themselves of the many pulls on their time an attention. But the thing about boundaries is, it’s not being irresponsible to our work or our relationships, it’s being responsible to ourselves. In my late twenties, I used to take mini sabbaticals. I’d spend a few days in a cabin in the mountains, free from the burdens of technology, completely cut off from the world. And it was difficult. As someone who’s genetically wired for hard work, one of the hardest things to do is nothing. Especially when that next email might be a paying client. But what I realized is, my life doesn’t need to revolve around one pseudo digital crisis after another. Most of the world is not sitting on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating my every move. What would a radical level of self care look like for you?
What did you learn?
* * * *
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
Now booking for 2014-2015.
Email to inquire about fees and availability. Watch clips of The Nametag Guy in action here!