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 candy shop scene in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory:
What can we learn?
Expectation unconsciously influences inspiration. The creative process is simultaneously mechanical and metaphysical. It’s a function of toil and time, but there’s also an equal measure of intention and attention. Charlie wanders around the street, finds a coin in a sewer grate and digs it out. That’s attention. By introducing it, he created his own opportunity to play the game. Then, when he walks into the candy shop, he buys a chocolate bar for his grandpa. Charlie wasn’t trying to win the contest, he was trying to do something generous for his family. That intention. By introducing it, he activated the infinite field of correlation. And the combination of the two changed everything. The lesson, then, is that focusing on a goal changes the person doing the focusing. It’s similar to the observer effect of quantum physics, which states that the act of observing a system inevitably alters its state. And so, if an artist expects to find ideas in her environment, she will cause an improvement in her ability to spot opportunities when they materialize. But if that same artist lets her attention and intention slip and slide all over the place, she’ll miss her moment of conception. Which of your ideas arrived as responses to attention and intention?
So shines a good deed. In the original candy scene, the crooning shop owner throws out tons of free candy to all the eager, wealthy children. Meanwhile, the poorest kid in town can only watch longingly from the window. Now, here’s the interesting part. Charlie walks into the same candy shop only few weeks later, hoping to receive the same treatment as the other children. But the moment he starts stuffing his face with chocolate, the owner clears his throat and holds out his hand. Almost as if to say, I’m not running a soup kitchen here. But he’s happy to pay for the treat. Charlie’s a good kid. This is a fair transaction. Besides, the candy isn’t even for him, it’s a gift for his grandpa. Meanwhile, a major scandal breaks out across the globe. Newspapers report that the multimillionaire gambler actually falsified his winning ticket. He had the nerve to try to fool the whole world. Which means, the fifth golden ticket was still out there somewhere. Waiting to be found by the right person. The honest person. The deserving person. After all, that was the whole point of the contest, we later find out. It wasn’t a golden ticket, it was a morality test. Wonka needed an honest child, worthy to be his heir. So shines a good deed in a weary world. How are you branding your honesty?
Work perpendicular. Charlie is devastated when the news breaks about the final golden ticket being found. The boy has nothing in the world to hope for now. Of course, his mother reminds him that he’ll get his chance. That one day, things will change. Probably when he least expects it. For now, he just needs to keep his dream in view, and pretty soon the sky will clear up. Which doesn’t put the delicious chocolate bar in his mouth, but it’s start. And that’s the spiritual theme embedded in this scene. It’s a lesson every artist has to learn. Because in the creative process, sometimes the best way to find something is to stop looking for it. The best way to accomplish something is to try less. Taoists would call this concept paradoxical unity. Which appears vague and esoteric and wholly unsatisfying in its practical application, but it’s actually a helpful approach in becoming prolific. As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the best strategy is to work perpendicular. To intentionally walk away from our current work and engage in something unrelated to the flow of activity. Charlie did just that. He went out for a walk and found exactly what he has stopped looking for. Which of your ideas have come when you least expected them?
What did you learn?
* * * *Scott GinsbergThat Guy with the NametagAuthor. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
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