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 new 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 running scene in Forrest Gump:
What can we learn?
Necessity carries a whip. This scene reads like a page out of Woodrow Wilson’s inspiring book, When a Man Comes to Himself. It’s about wholesome regenerating change. A full realization of a person’s powers. A man’s discovery of the way in which his faculties are to be made to fit into the world’s affairs. Forrest, as the president wrote, learned his own paces and found his footing. He initiated the process of disillusionment. Clearing his eyes so he could soberly see the world as it is, and his own true place and function in it. Had the bullies never thrown dirt clods at his head in the first place, his leg braces never would have broken apart, and he never would have discovered that he could run like the wind. And so, in this moment, necessity isn’t so much the mother of invention as it is the illuminator of identity. Gump’s difficult situation didn’t prompt an new innovation, it destroyed an old one. His magic shoes, as he called them, were only magic insofar as they housed and nurtured an immense spirit that ultimately broke free and helped create a truly charmed life. Is your current life situation going to limit you or liberate you?
Punch windows in the wall of the self. First he hobbles. Then he gains speed. But when the braces shatter, sending steel and plastic flying into the air, the boy looks down at his legs in surprise. Well I’ll be a squirrel in a skirt. Guess he never realized how fast he could run until running was his only choice. Yet another case of trial by fire. What a potent illustration for the creators of the world. Artists, after all, have a set of preexisting beliefs about their talents. But unless they’re tested in the crucible of everyday life, they never expand to their full capacity. Forrest spontaneously did something he didn’t realize he could do, and the experience sent him on a trajectory of fame, success and adventure. In the same way that a virus can lie dormant in your body for so long that you forget you were ever infected, a talent can also lie undernurtured in your life for so long that you don’t realize you have it. That’s when it’s useful to have someone you love whispering, or in Jenny’s case, shouting, words of encouragement to keep your legs in motion. Who do you have in your life to make sure your potential doesn’t go to waste?
Tie a rope around your heart. Gump’s legs were as strong as any the doctor had ever seen. His spine, on the other hand, was as crooked as politician. And so, he was forced to wear the orthopedic shoes and metal leg braces for three years. But despite constant ridicule, name calling, even getting his legs caught in gutter grates, the braces turn out to be a blessing in disguise. In my book on creativity, One Smoking Hot Piece of Brain Candy, I introduced a technique called tourniquetting. This is when an artist creates a healthy sense of distance from their work by damming up the creative flow, compressing the circulation and applying enough pressure so there’s an explosion waiting for them when they’re ready to return. Gump’s braces were the tourniquets. They blocked the flow. The constricted his power. And after a few years, once the pressure reached its threshold level, there was no stopping that train. Momma said those magic shoes would take him anywhere, and she was right. That’s the power of creative tourniquetting. It requires a significant amount of delayed gratification. And it requires having enough discipline notto have discipline. But it’s a hell of a way to get things moving. Are you willing to tie a rope around your heart just to let the blood build up?
What’s your favorite movie moment of conception?