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 kissing scene in Black Swan:
What can we learn?
Beyond the calculated sterility of perfection. This movie explores the quixotic quest for perfection. Nina’s obsession with being a perfect dancer, a perfect daughter, and a perfect swan, leads her down an increasingly dark path in which her sanity is threatened. I remember watching this movie at the theater. When the credits rolled, I slumped back in my chair and exhaled a deep sign of relief. And I thought to myself, wow, perfection must be exhausting. Thank god I don’t have that gene. Although, I have found myself on that treadmill before. For years, I used to labor over the precision of every sentence until my books were flawless. Until I realized that nobody noticed. That the extra effort and stress and time and energy and money invested in pushing a project to one hundred percent wasn’t worth the cost. And so, I started aiming for eighty percent. Cutting corners wherever I could. Treating sufficiency as policy. Reducing redundancies at every phase of the process. And believing that enough was as good as a feast. That way, once I hit my mark of eighty percent, I could roll over that final twenty percent into starting the next project. The point is, the artist’s obligation is to progress, not perfection. It’s about moving forward, not moving flawlessly. Are you letting the curse of perfection trump the commitment to progress?
Perfect is the enemy of fast. Leroy explains that perfection is not just about control, but also about letting go. Surprising yourself so you can surprise the audience. It’s not about obsessing over getting each move exactly right, it’s about losing yourself. Shedding all sense of self and allowing yourself to just be. As one of my songwriting heroes famously said, forming a bond with fans in the future will come in the form of constantly providing them with the element of surprise. What’s crazy is, there are tons of artists who’d rather prefer perfecting what they do, and doing it over and over for years until they get it right. I’m sorry, but that’s madness. Literally insane behavior. Can you imagine anything less efficient than that? There is simply not enough time in life to quest for perfection. As a creator and communicator of ideas, you want a wake of work following you wherever you go. Momentum and speed and volume. And unfortunately, that’s impossible to accomplish if you’re paralyzed in the pursuit of perfect. Reminds me of a perfectionist friend of mine. She would rather show nothing than show work that’s less than her best. And I tell her all the time, look, I understand you want to put your best foot forward, but you’ll never impress anyone by putting no foot forward. Have you learned to use imperfection as your advantage?
Keeping all your doors to crazy cracked. Another one of my songwriting heroes recently said that if you think you know what your audience wants, and you’re going to cater to them, you’re just going to start making worse versions of what you did before. He makes a good point. Why spend the rest of your creative life merely improving what you’ve already achieved? It’s the different between making chocolate and carob. Between creating from whole cloth and going in a time machine to recycle yourself. And so, the more interesting and daring and rewarding path would be to play with boundaries, not just within them. To embody the opposite of perfection, aka, playfulness. Making room for possibility, whatever the cost to yourself. That’s precisely what audiences want. Interesting people who create art that they could not think of themselves. Leroy says it best. The only person standing in your way is you. Are you undercutting your unique essence by listening to other too loudly?
What did you learn?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
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