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 dream scene in Inception:
What can we learn?
There are no rules if something is great. Ariadne is an architecture student recruited to construct the various dreamscapes. With her help, the team will be able infiltrate the target’s subconscious and extract the necessary information. Naturally, she can’t resist. There’s nothing quite like it. It’s pure creation. In the dream state, reality is negotiable. All rules can be bent or broken. She can even cheat architecture into impossible shapes. But this is a movie. Real people can’t access that kind of creative power in their own lives. Until we can. It’s simply a matter of giving ourselves permission. Realizing that, in art, we can do whatever we want. The only thing that stops us is our stubborn need to categorize. Our habit of addictively defining ourselves in narrow ways. But if we truly our creativity to expand into unexpected territory, we have to engage in possibility for its own sake. If a blues singer, for example, wants to cross genres and record a country album, she absolutely can. Nobody is going to stop her. But until she sheds the outdated way of speaking about her identity, until she accepts the story that it’s okay for someone like her to cross musical boundaries, then her music will never see the light of day. A useful mantra to remember is, no labels, no limits. If we decide exactly what we’re doing, then we can only be as good as that. But if we remake ourselves as we grow and as the world changes, keeping our creative process in permanent beta, anything is possible. Just like the dreamscape, there’s nothing between us and raw, direct, pure creation. What kinds of permissions do you give yourself?
First you write the book, then the book writes you. Ariadne has been to the top of the mountain. She seen the promised land, and knows she will forever be changed. Einstein was right, a mind once stretched by new thoughts can never regain its original shape. That’s the great transformation of art. How your life changes once the work is done. Because once you’ve shipped, once something is yours, once you have your own art in your own hands, you’re never the same again. I remember receiving the very first copy of my very first book. That moment is permanently seared into my memory. Something about the act of tearing open the box, inhaling the acidic scent of victory and beholding my own creation in my hands, changed me forever. I slept with the book that night. Because I knew my life would regain its original shape. And I was right. First the you write the book, then the book writes you. And so, there is no failure in art. Simply by virtue of engaging in the creative process, we gain something that nobody can take away from us. The person we become by creating it, and the life we’re able lead by having created it. How do you let experiences change you?
A skewed relationship to reality. We’re all searching for some dream to pour ourselves into. Our one big idea that’s as large and as great as we are. A productive obsession that we can nurture and see to fruition. Of course, every creation has a cost. Not a price, necessarily, but a cost. To us and the people around us. Cobb warns his young apprentice never to recreate from her own memory, but to always create new places. Otherwise she’ll lose grasp on what’s real and what’s a dream. That’s why she needs a totem. Some kind of personal icon. A small object that you can always have with her, the weight and movement of which nobody else knows, to convince her beyond a doubt that she’s not in someone else’s dream. What’s interesting is, the term totem actually derives from the word for “sibling kin, group or family.” Meaning, your totem doesn’t necessarily have to be an object. It can be a person, too. Someone who refuses to bullshit you. Someone who sees what you can’t see for yourself. Someone who has the courage to tell you that you’ve been following your obsession for too long, and you’ve become a slave to it. Who in your life is willing to say when you’ve gone too far?
What did you learn?
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