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 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 input scene in Short Circuit:
What can we learn?
Inspiration is incidental, not intentional. Artists make things because they want to move people. To inspire them to become better. But the creator can’t jumpstart other people unless her battery is charged first. There has to be a source current. A substratum of energy from which to supply power. Johnny has his own version of this. He’s an experimental military robot that was struck by lightning and is beginning to gain a more humanlike intelligence. But since he’s barely able to communicate and uncertain of his directive, he requires constant access to books, television and other stimuli to satisfy his demand for input. That’s how he develops his whimsical and curious personality, befriends the characters, captures the bad guy and deprograms his dangerous warlike applications. All he needed was, as he called it, major input. Johnny reminds us, albeit in a mechanical way, that we have to repower our own source current. We have to inspire ourselves, first and foremost. Because our job as creators isn’t to inspire people, but to keep doing what we love, that way people can discover the same about themselves through that work. If we want to move people, we have to remember that inspiration isn’t the target, inspiration is the reward our audience receives when we hit the target. When was the last time you made the choice to be inspired?
Healthy eyes see whatever is visible. Johnny may be powered by electricity, but his primary source of energy, meaning and nourishment, is input. That’s why watching him motor into the world’s biggest bookstore is akin to a heroin addict stumbling into an opium farm. Johnny is a mental omnivore, eating or at least chewing on almost anything, taking in whatever is available to build his bottomless reservoir of diverse ideas. Everything in the bookstore is fair game. What’s more, his real power isn’t just collecting information, but conceptually integrating it. His robot brain has an advanced ability to make original associations, to blend information from various scenarios and experiences, and to understand complex metaphors and comparisons. That’s the mark of a true creator. Someone who can dive into his intellectual reservoir on a moment’s notice, swim to the bottom, and return to the surface with a new and interesting combination that the world has never seen before. Johnny is a role model for artists. He is alive, as he likes to proclaim, thanks to his constant stream of input. We should all be so fortunate. What’s your framework for inspiration?
Develop an allergy to dogma. Johnny maintains a high openness to experience. Cognitive psychologists have found this trait be common among creative thinkers. It’s a personality that involves active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. In fact, the psychological personality inventory measures specific subsets of this openness to experience, including the tendency to appreciate art, music, and poetry, the inclination to try new activities and the readiness to reexamine traditional social, religious and political values. That’s what I love about this robot. He demands they drop everything and go into the store. Hold his meeting. City traffic be damned. Customers move to the side. Security guards go to hell. This machine has located a source of major input, and nobody is going to stop him from getting it. Reminds me a lot of myself. What are the specific traits, habits, and tendencies that comprise your creative personality?
What did you learn?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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