The Richard Linklater Guide to Dreaming in Waking Life

Lessons learned from the coolest movie ever

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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.

Based on my books in The Prolific 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 dreamers scene from Waking Life:

We are the stuff dreams are made of. Dreaming isn’t a learned skill, it’s the natural state of the human brain. In fact, at the heart of what it means to be a person is the act of dreaming. Exploring the frontiers of possibility and coming alive through the pursuit of our ideas, that’s what separates us from the animal kingdom. We are the portals through which dreams are had, followed and realized. The problem, as the narrator says, is that dreaming isn’t dead, it’s simply been forgotten. Removed from our language. Sentenced to obscurity. And so, the educational need isn’t schooling, it’s shedding. The work isn’t teaching people how to dream, but teaching people how to unlock the portals through which dreams can enter. Rumi made this point a few thousand years ago. He said our task is not to seek love, but to find all the barriers within ourselves that we have built against it. Dreaming works in a same way. Because we all know how to do it. It’s an intuitive process. It’s like oxygen for our species. It’s just that we’ve accumulated so many cultural defenses and invisible scripts and bullshit excuses around our dreams, that they never get a fighting chance to float to the surface. If we could simply convince ourselves that we are the stuff dreams are made of, that our dreams are waiting for us to come true, those dreams would almost effortlessly come to pass. Otherwise we’ll continue to block our dreams with the excuse that we can’t afford to accomplish them. Are you putting a bullet in your dream before telling yourself that you’re worthy of having it?

The ride does not require a destination, only occupants. Linklater never fails to rev up my creative engine. Every time I watch one of his movies, I’m always inspired to go make art of my own. Because in his films, he makes the mundane magical. He turns natural human conversation into a work of art itself. He messes with structure and reminds us that everything doesn’t always have to be a thing. Almost as if to say, hey, when you watch my movies, not much happens except for life itself, and you need to be okay with that. That’s courage. Just like the character in the film says, there’s no story, it’s just people. Gestures. Moments. Bits of rapture. Fleeting emotions. In short, the greatest stories ever told. Rollins actually made this point his new book, saying that he loves art that doesn’t immediately win him over. How certain pieces end up becoming some of his favorites because he has to put more of himself into the interaction to get something out of it. I feel the same way about this movie. Despite its lack of narrative, it grows more absorbing with every scene. Waking Life is not trying too hard to be your friend. It’s not striving for your approval. It has little interest in what your opinion is of it. It’s just doing its thing, existing in the world, regardless of your criticism. Reviewers may have called that an insensitivity to the audience, but I call it a reminder that artists can do whatever the hell they want, and nobody can stop them. Are you creating art that makes your audience have to evolve somehow?

Go all in on your dreams. When I graduated college, moved across the country and started my own business, my parents gave me the greatest gift of all. They never tried to stop me. All they could do was trust that they did their job. That they did everything in their power to ensure that I was well equipped to live my dream. And that two decades of parental labor laid the proper foundation for whatever dream possessed me. It worked. Thanks to their support, meaning, their radical acceptance, reckless generosity and relentless participation, I have been able to live out my dreams almost perfectly. That’s good parenting. The point is, if you want to reduce the distance between your dream and its reality, you have to surround your dream with support structures. Otherwise the mechanism by which you realize your dreams will never get up to operating temperature. But don’t let genetics be a limiting factor. Anybody can be your mentor. It doesn’t have to be a sanctioned relationship. It doesn’t even have to be a living person. Mentors are simply people who take a real interest in your aspirations and encourage your goals and dreams. Engage heart and imagination actively in whoever instructs, inspires and supports your dream. The only catch is, once it comes true, you’re obligated to live your life as a thank you in perpetuity to the voices that shaped you. Who are the essential supporting characters of the world you want to live in so you can realize your dreams?

What did you learn from this movie clip?

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

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Written by

Author. Speaker. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Founder of Pioneer of Personal Creativity Management (PCM). I also wear a nametag 24/7.

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