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 idea man scene in Nightshift:
Keep your eye on the ball and let your mind go. If you don’t write it down, it never happened. That’s a mantra I’ve lived and worked by for many years. But writing down your ideas the moment you have them isn’t necessarily about quality, it’s about continuity. It’s not about the material, it’s about the muscle. Training your brain to become proficient at collecting and creating and communicating ideas. Creativity, after all, is cumulative. The more you use it, the more you have. If we’re sitting around the dinner table, for example, and somebody accidentally spits out a great band name, I write it down. Every time. Not because I’m actually going to start a band with that name, but because I want to practice recognizing interesting ideas. Carlin explained it best in his posthumous biography. He said he wanted his brain to get used to the fact that collecting and capturing ideas made it feel good. That it liked finding those things. That way, every time his brain found another one, it would say, oh boy oh boy, there’s another one! This is going to feel good. Let’s go back to work and find more of these for him. It’s positive addiction. Creating optimal conditions for the brain to grow. Blaze is over exuberant, irrational, hyperactive idea man who never stops talking. He had attention deficit disorder a decade before the disease was even discovered. And yet, he knew how to channel it. The tape recorder was his ground zero. His entry point into the creative processing workflow. The primary location for offloading raw materials into his idea factory. Is everything you know written down somewhere?
Creativity is an act of trust. Planners and control freaks often struggle with the creative process. To them, creating something out of nothing can feel like banging their head against a brick wall. Embracing uncertainty just isn’t in their nature. They prefer to compartmentalize the world around them. And I understand. Ambiguity is hard. Blank canvases can be overwhelming and paralyzing. The secret, then, is building your muscle of trust. Assuming the power is there for you to use. Developing faith in your own creative mechanism. And that can only come through practice. For example, every day when I sit down to write, I have no idea what I’m going to say. But after years and years and pages and pages of practice, I’ve developed deep faith in my ability to sit down and respond to the world. And so, I always end up saying something. Because I trust that the forest will provide. The writing isn’t always guaranteed to be good, but that’s not the point. Overcoming resistance is the victory. You can’t micromanage every outburst of emotion. You just have let the performance happen by itself. It takes massive amounts of trust, both in yourself and in the process, but it’s a lot less stressful and a lot more productive than the alternative. When was the last time you were stronger than you gave yourself credit for?
The perfection bug sinks its teeth into my skin. When my director and I wrapped post production on our documentary, I rang the concierge bell on my desk, gave him a high five and pumped my fist towards the sky. What a moment. Two and a half years of work, finally coming to fruition. Hallelujah. Beautiful feelings of satisfaction and relief and pride washed over me like a tidal wave. Five minutes later, I felt a twitch in my left eye. And I realized, wow, I could easily spend three more months making this movie fifteen percent better. Think of all of those scenes and sounds that would benefit from a quick once over. Maybe we could push the deadline back till next year? No. Don’t you dare, I reminded myself. Stay away from that goddamn treadmill. Don’t even think about scratching unless there’s really an itch. Finished is the new perfect. And so, I snapped out of it. I sidestepped the seductive trap of perpetual improvement. And we began distributing the documentary two weeks later. Phew. Close call, though. Turns out, I’m just as susceptible to resistance’s trickery as the next guy. Have you ever asked yourself why you procrastinate?
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