Monday, January 12, 2015

Moments of Conception 150 -- The Karaoke Scene from Duets

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 karaoke scene in Duets:

The crucible of the stage. Duets is perhaps one of the most underrated movies of all time. Critics skewered it in the papers and audiences rolled their eyes when it came out. And yet, we can’t deny the inspiring themes about music as a healer, performance as a catharsis and singing as a binding agent between friends. After watching this movie, I got on stage and sang karaoke for the first time in my life. That night, I came out of my shell. A creative tap opened up in me that I didn’t know was closed. And I haven’t been the same since. This movie is more than a slice of the competitive karaoke world and the wayward characters who inhabit it, it’s also a testament to the transformative power of performance. Any kind of performance. Because whether you play music in the park, stand as a painted statue on the corner or get up on stage at the comedy club, performance changes you. Having an audience changes you. Physicists call this the observer effect, whereby the act of observation has an effect on the phenomenon being observed. That’s why people modify aspects of their behavior in response to being watched. And that’s why public speaking is our number one fear. But the value is beyond anything we can get by simply standing in front of a mirror. Because the best work can only come to its power in the world when it moves beyond the self, as a gift from artist to audience. When was the last time you got up on stage in front of people?

Keep your gift in motion. Reggie may be charming and sings like an angel, but he’s also a dangerous fugitive convict. The guy wouldn’t twice about entering some silly karaoke contest. But with the encouragement of a new friend, he grabs the mic and blows the audience away. And by virtue of winning the competition in this small town, he wins the right to compete in the finals. This movie reminds me that one of the chief reasons we make art in the first place is to earn the opportunity to do the work again. To keep the gift in motion. Yes, the prize money is helpful and important and validating, and any artist is grateful to get paid what they’re worth. But the real currency, the motivation for returning to the studio, is the next performance. The chance to do what you do again. It’s the distinction between the market economy and the gift economy. Hyde’s groundbreaking research on this subject found that giving the first creation away is what makes the second one possible. Bestowal creates that energy place into which new energy may flow. And as long as the gift is not withheld, the creative spirit will remain a stranger to the economics of scarcity. Every creator experiences that transaction. That moment on stage when they realize, okay, if I don’t keep doing what I do really well, someday I may not get to do it anymore. Talk about motivation.  What birthright gifts have you been dragged away from?

Err on the side of openness. Creativity is partly about making art, partly about creating the opportunity to make art, and partly about uncovering the resources needed to help you make art. But creativity is also about opening yourself to what you are closed to. It’s a crucial element to the creativity aptitude test. A person with high openness, says the research, has an active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety and intellectual curiosity. Reggie, not unlike a lot of people, doesn’t want to get up on that stage. Not even to lip sync. But as much as he’d prefer to retreat to his own dark corner, hiding out from the world, his friend promises him that there’s something existentially useful waiting on the other side of the stage. So he takes the plunge. Reggie sings with his whole heart, purging all the fear and pain and rage insight of him. That physical experience pulls him back into his body and out of the visceral experience of threat. And something lets go in him. He disappears from the world, loses all sense of self and spellbinds everyone in the room, especially himself. He tried a little tenderness, and it worked. Reggie’s moment of conception reminds you that you have to believe the truth about yourself, no matter how beautiful it is. Because you never know. That truth might flip on a switch that you don’t eve want to turn off. What awaits you in the refining fire of discomfort?

What did you learn from this movie clip?

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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