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 gobstopper scene from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory:
What can we learn?
A round of inner applause. Wonka’s latest product is going to crush the competition and revolutionize the candy industry forever. It’s a perfect example of external motivation, and it’s one of the reasons he’s so successful. However, as wonderful as it is to earn money and fame and attention and glory for the work we do, the most fulfilling motivations to make art tend to be much more internal. When we create to find a home for all of our talents, to make use of everything we are, to stay faithful to our eccentric nature and to engage in projects that call on more of our essence, that’s internal. When we create to give our hidden gifts a more prominent place in our lives, to open a vein of freedom that didn’t exist previously and to establish a new context from which to relate to the world, that’s internal. And the best part is, when we operate from the orientation of looking within, not without, we can’t lose. We can’t fail. Because we’re doing the work for its own sake, not for its ability to advance our standing the eyes of the world. We’re working for a hearty round of inner applause, not a superficial standing ovation from the crowd. Are you creating to receive sustenance from the act of creation itself, or from the impression it makes on the marketplace?
Backstage passes to your dream. Wonka’s inventing room is the best scene of the movie. And he admits to the group, it’s the most interesting and secret room of his factory. It’s where all of his most secret inventions are cooking and simmering. Slugworth would give his false teeth to get inside for just five minutes. No touching, no tasting, no telling. I respect that sense of containment. Every creator has to strike a balance between safeguarding their artistic vision to protect intellectual property, and passionately sharing their ideas with the world they hope to transform. And, it’s not just a protective measure, it’s also a productive one. Telling people about our next big idea can easily become a surrogate for doing the work to realize that idea. It’s a weird form of procrastination, whereby the mouth tricks the mind into the satisfying feeling that something is already done. Wonka knows better. He won’t let the vultures destroy his seed before he has a chance to harvest it. And so, it’s a reminder that complacency is the mistress of inaction. Declaring victory too soon can become an exercise in creative foot shooting. Are you blowing the lid off your next great idea by telling too many of the wrong people about it?
Every artist works in the dark. The creative process often feels like we’re standing at the edge of an uncertain world, where there’s nothing to do but wait for something to happen. It’s a frustrating, helpless experience. However, that’s no excuse not to create. That’s no reason not to hustle while we wait. That’s what I find most inspiring about this particular scene. Wonka’s various contraptions and bubbles and churns and whistles capture my imagination, because they represent the power of polyamorous creation. This is the strategy of pursuing relationships with multiple creative projects, with a full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. Notice how each of his inventions adhere to their own incubation clock. Some are on the brink of completion, others need more time to stew in their own creative juices. Either way, we are watching a great inventor go where the ideas want to lead him, always trusting that one creation will show him the way down the road to the next. And in our own creative work, we couldn’t ask for anything more. Would your creative efforts be more productively deployed if you pursued multiple projects simultaneously, at varying stages of completion?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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