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 Omnidroid scene in The Incredibles:
What can we learn?
Once you have some, you can get some. Omnidroid is an advanced self learning robot. It’s an artificial intelligence machine that corrects its own mistakes by collecting information on the opponents it encounters. That way, every subsequent model improves upon the previous one by correcting flaws found during fights. The creative process works in the same way. Once you have some, you can get some. Take filmmaking. I just finished my first documentary. But since I’ve never made a movie before, it’s all new territory for me. I have no frame of reference for this kind of project. My editor, on the other hand, is a veteran videographer. And he explained that in the filmmaking process, the more things we do, the more we understand what doing means, and that knowledge informs all of our subsequent decisions. Like the robot, with every modification, our creative mechanism becomes more capable against its opponents, solving more problems and fending off potential threats to its plans. And so, each day when we sit down in the edit bay, we learn something new. We discover an angle or a cut or a transition or a color correction that we’ve never tried before. That experience affords us context and understanding and a sense of what’s possible for the scene, which in turn populates our frame of reference and expands the palette from which we create. And this process ultimately allows us to go back and retouch the previous day’s footage with our new found knowledge. Are you flooding your creative process with intense learning experiences?
Be worthy of your advantages. This movie is a brilliant meditation on identity and mediocrity. Syndrome, the super villain responsible for creating the robot, is conniving, manipulative man who seeks personal gain without honest work or achievement. He doesn’t actually possess any special powers, he just has a ton of money. And so, instead of trying to raise the bar, he builds inventions so that everyone can have special powers. Because when everyone’s super, no one will be. Yikes. What a powerful reminder that if want to be special, we have to earn and deserve it. That operating from a mindset of intrinsic remarkability is misguided and even dangerous. Because contrary to what reality television might suggest, true and meaningful achievement isn’t something that just falls in our lap. It’s the result of creating real value for real people. It’s the byproduct of having the guts to risk and the willingness to fail and the desire to change the world for the better. It’s the consequence of doing things for the love and the journey and because we believe in their importance, not because of where they might get us. Syndrome’s goal isn’t to develop and protect his moral sensibility, it’s to pursue things with which to leverage his brand onto the superhero totem pole. And that’s why he ultimately loses. Are you climbing the mountain to see the world or so the world can see you?
The pile never gets smaller. Bob says that no matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Interesting, considering the same thing could be said about the creative process. Because often times, it feels like a tail that grows back everyday. Just one goddamn thing after another. It’s the pile that never gets to zero, no matter how hard we try. There will always be more to do, all the time, forever, until we die. It’s an infinite regression. Like two opposing mirrors. But over time, we learn to honor the pile. We make peace with it. We even joust with it. And we give thanks to the creative gods that we have because it certainly beats the alternative. Better to constantly have a world to save than to live in one that doesn’t need us. The point is, we all grow tired of cleaning up the mess. Bob doesn’t feel like fighting crime every day, but it’s who he is. The mess is what he lives for. The mess is what brings out the best in him. The mess is why he got into this business in the first place. And when it comes to the creative process––the pure, unromantic slog of sitting down and doing the work, every single day––we don’t have a choice. The world will always be in jeopardy. That’s why we signed up. Creators like their beauty strange, their plots unruly and their duty untamed. Which world is waiting for you to save it?
What did you learn?
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