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 voicemail scene in Swingers:
What can we learn?
In that kiss I saw a vision of my future. A prospective client reaches out, shows an interest in your work, asks tons of questions, requests a price quote, emails you back immediately, gets your hopes up about working together, and then, they just magically disappear. No explanation. No apology. No nothing. They just go away. And despite your follow up efforts, courteous and professional and persistent as they may be, still nothing. This phenomenon infuriates me. And each time it happens, I can’t help but think to myself, what the hell? You’re the ones who came to me. But then I remember something I learned in high school. Just because we kissed once doesn’t mean we’re in love forever. That’s the thing about opportunity. It’s a fickle mistress. It comes and goes like the changing weather, swearing allegiance to no one, rarely with explanation or apology. And so, instead of twisting myself into a psychological pretzel trying to figure out what went wrong, maybe it was me, maybe it was them, maybe my email account wasn’t working, I’ve learned to just let it go. I accept the fact that so many things in life just go away. And I try not to take it personally. Then again, I also feel a puff of hope when I remember, the fact that it happened at all means that it’s possible. What can you let go of right now so that you can regain your balance?
I’d rather hear no than nothing. This scene makes my stomach turn. It’s quite possibly the most awkward three minutes in the history of film. Mike reeks of desperation, longing to connect, aching to engage, begging to be heard. But he keeps getting the damn machine. It’s interesting, no matter how many times I watch this scene, I always catch myself silently screaming to the screen, no, please, don’t do it again. But he always does. Every time. Because that’s the natural human response. People would rather hear no than nothing. I’m reminded of the old saying, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Completely bullshit. In my experience, absence makes the mind start to wander. And that’s when the waves of anxiety come crashing in. Because whether it’s a friend or a date or a colleague or a client, when someone leaves you in the dark, you engage in worse case thinking. You assume that no news is bad news. Psychologists call this negative bias, whereby the brain is built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news. According to their research, the human capacity to weigh negative input keeps us out of harm’s way. That’s why our brains have evolved to developed systems that make it unavoidable for us not to notice danger and, hopefully, respond to it. The question, though, is how can we accumulate enough positive experiences to override the tilt to negativity? I suggest using a victory log. It’s a small weekly calendar that you populate with any and all victories, large or small, that you achieve each day. Think of it as a visual record of progress that surrounds you with concrete evidence of positive improvement. How will you tip the scales toward happiness?
Go work on something else. Despite your most strategic efforts, you can’t will somebody to call you back. You can’t use the law of attraction to make the phone ring. What you can do, however, is turn waiting into working. You can give yourself permission to work on something else. I prefer the term polyamorous creation, which is the practice of pursuing relationships with multiple creative projects. It’s way to hedge your creative bets. To insure yourself against the daily discouragements, delays, distractions, depressions, derailments and disappointments of the process. Consider these common examples. New project receive an unflattering review? Go work on something else. Editor not calling you back with her notes? Go work on something else. Computer freeze at an inopportune time? Go work on something else. Client go on vacation and forget about your website? Go work on something else. Receive a rejection letter from a publisher? Go work on something else. Spirit won’t move the way you want it to? Go work on something else. Mike blew it. He put all his eggs into one basket. And as a result, he lost the girl. A smarter, healthier approach would be to always have something waiting in the wings, ready to be worked on. To differentiate and diversify between a number of main lines of activity. That way, when one enterprise grinds to a halt, productive work does not cease. How will you build enough momentum to keep the story moving forward?
What did you learn?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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