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 shower curtain scene in Planes, Trains & Automobiles:
No labels, no limits. My favorite basketball player once said, if you don’t know where you’re going, nobody can stop you. I’ve always appreciated the playfulness and flexibility of that mindset. It’s not a bad way to play the game. In fact, it’s not a bad strategy for approaching the creative process. Life is boring when we know all the answers anyway. Because when we’ve already decided exactly what we’re making or where we’re going, our work can only be as good as that. On the other hand, when we objectify the creative process and suspend our need to categorize, we invite projects to expand into unexpected territory. We allow the work to adapt and evolve. When I started working on my my first documentary, I didn’t know I was making a movie until a year into the project. One day, I just stepped back from the project and thought, I think this thing wants to be a film. So I listened. But had I decided that at the onset of the process, it wouldn’t have organically blossomed into the work of art it is today. In this example, I was creating medium agnostic. Instead of locking the work into a single form, I kept the idea in permanent beta. Instead of forcing my own expectations on the work, I allowed patterns to emerge. And when the time came for the documentary to announce itself, all I had to do was listen and say yes. Are your expectations serving or frustrating you?
Your credentials are your attitude. When I started my business, it was barely a business. No plan. No market strategy. No creative vision for turning a profit. I just wanted to write. I just wanted to make things. And so, when I launched my publishing company, it was a business insofar as I believed it existed. My enterprise was real because I said it was. And that was enough. Nobody could take that away from me. There was no belief police who was going to put up a barricade in my mind and say, now just a minute there young man, we’re going to need to see some credentials. Bullshit. I can do whatever I want. I hired myself, and I answer to myself. Turns out, that’s all you need. Enough proof to convince yourself, and enough passion to convince others. And yet, most people won’t do it. We’re so afraid to raise our hand a take a chance and stick ourselves out there because we’re scared that people will laugh and stare and roll their eyes and call on us the carpet. Del, on the other hand, raised his hand. He hired himself. Converting his shower curtain inventory into sellable jewelry was genius. Proving, that people are impressed by people who take initiative. They’re inspired by the fact that they have the audacity to step into the spotlight and own it. And that’s why nobody ever says anything. Because deep down, there’s a part of them that wises they had the guts do the same. So try raising your hand. Hire yourself. You’ll be amazed how few people will try to stop you. Once you realize that, once you start living life without waiting for permission, you’ll experience a level of abundance you never thought possible. Are you asking who’s going to let you, or wondering who’s going to stop you?
Definition is an intellectual enterprise, the soul prefers to imagine. During a recent creativity workshop, many of the high school students asked me questions about career paths. If, at a young age, they were supposed to know what they wanted to do with their life. And I told them, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Very few people know who they are and what they want when they’re eighteen. That’s the cognitive dissonance of adolescence. Human beings have to satisfy their basic human need for unity, order and completeness. And so, they demand that everything follows a logical path. That everything has a beginning, middle and end. Human life, after all, is punctuated by a definite beginning, middle and end. And so, it’s no surprise that teenagers require everything they deal with in life to follow the same path. Their rational capacities crave a certain amount of story. They depend on dramatic structure. It’s hardwired into them. But the reality is, I told the students, not everything has to be a thing. Life can’t always be compartmentalized. Not every idea can be fully fleshed out and explainable. And it shouldn’t be. That robs us of joy of the limitless everyday mystery that is life. When did you become okay with that?
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