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 typewriter scene scene in The Shining:
What can we learn?
We can’t set art off in a corner. Jack assumed the seclusion at the hotel would help him reconnect with his family and create the motivation needed to finish his play. But instead, he ended up going insane from cabin fever, getting possessed by the hotel ghosts, going on a murderous rampage and ultimately freezing to death in the hedge maze. Not exactly the kind of productivity he was looking for. And so, it’s a bloody good lesson about the dangers of remaining in isolation too long. Because what happens to the creator is, he starts losing perspective. He starts missing out on the subtle cues around him that could lead to opportunities to connect. And by the time his work is done, there’s nobody around to share it with. When I went through my workaholic phase, I was completely preoccupied with my vision, my business, my art, my career and myself. I sacrificed my relationships by creating friction between friends, family members, colleagues and lovers. And I sacrificed my time by not having a life outside of my career, with few centers of belonging and little involvement in my community. The point is, we have to find the balance between productivity and sociability. We have to stay prolific, while still going out of our way to honor the part of us that is not satisfied with a life of estrangement and isolation. Nobody should sacrifice human connection on the altar of creative production. Are you remembering to appreciate the wholeness of real people?
Become a master of your disinclination.Jack’s typewriter tantrum seems inflated and unwarranted, but any writer will attest, when the art is coming, when you’re cranking away feverishly and extensively, senseless interruptions are profoundly frustrating. Squeezed by our surroundings, muddied by triviality, swept into the undertow of inconsequentiality, our work simply never gets done. Unless, long before we start creating, we put some energy into prioritizing, organizing and streamlining the routines that keep others from frittering away our attention. We can hang creative signs on our office doors. We can download apps that disable our internet connection for the time period we specify.We can install plugins that block social sites that waste our time. Whatever it takes to inoculate us against distractions and maintain motivational equilibrium. If we want to become masters of our disinclination, we have to consciously engineer our environment in ways that cultivate the conditions for creativity to expand. Jack’s system is simple. If he’s in this room, he’s working. And that means don’t come in. Period. What’s your policy for managing compositional paralysis?
Slam the iron door. Prolificacy means developing simple, predictable system. One that takes willpower out of the equation. One that doesn’t force you to borrow time and resources other parts of your life. One that allows you to achieve a solid baseline of daily activity. One that doesn’t require investing a single neuron in the unnecessary, exhaustive search of possibilities of where to direct your creative energies. Writers, for example, often treat their creative process as a standing appointment. They’re due at the page, as they say, at the same time everyday. And they uphold that commitment with religious fervor. They don’t downplay the importance of their work time. They don’t back out at the last minute. They make a schedule and stick to it. That’s a simple system. Jack is setting a boundary with his system. He’s slamming the iron door. And he’s letting the other people in his life know that the creative rapids are gushing, but rest reassured, they will pass eventually. What simple, predictable system will keep your creative practice grounded?
What did you learn?
* * * *Scott GinsbergThat Guy with the NametagAuthor. Speaker. Strategist. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
Never the same speech twice. Customized for your audience. Impossible to walk away uninspired.
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