The Bigger Picture: What’s the Frequency?

Written by Film, The Bigger Picture

200441444-001Is there a key to creativity? Could there be some way of unlocking what is within the mind at any given time? The answer to this question has often eluded me. I cannot conclude that every other creative person in the world has the same experience as I, but there must be similarities.

Earlier this year, I experienced a sudden flood of creativity. What was most strange about this was how it seemed mostly confined to a specific period of the day, namely between 9:00 and 11:00 PM. What was most interesting about this period was that I could only write one thing, which was a short story series called The Adventures of Plectrum and Steve.

What is most intriguing about that particular situation is how important the stories became to me. I would generally use them as a means of expressing my frustrations and then solve them within the confines of a two-page story. Through these stories, I would giggle at the inanity of my problems and the simplicity with which I was able to overcome them.

I can reasonably conclude that this period was necessary for me. At this point, I was gainfully employed, working a full 40-hour week in an office. Yet, when I was informed that my position with the company had to be terminated due to economic woes, the creative well dried up. Since then, I haven’t written a story. This could be blamed on my sudden necessity to plan ahead, and to focus on financial issues. Yet the simple fact is that my creativity was an outlet for my dissatisfaction with the cushy situation I was in.

Lately, I have been trying to write a screenplay based around the Steve character from those short stories. I have a few ideas, but the project isn’t exactly flowing like the short stories ever did.

I once read that Michel Gondry wrote one of his films in about a month. To me, that is shockingly fast. I can’t really imagine writing a feature-length screenplay in that amount of time. Screenplays are difficult to write because they need to be so precise. I really have no idea how Gondry’s mind works, so it is hard for me to understand his ability to write so quickly.

Yet inspiration is often such a sudden, unexplainable beast. It is for this reason that I hold some belief in that which is unexplainable by science. Creativity often defies logic, and is an almost magical experience. Science could find a way of defining the parameters in which it exists, but then the very majesty of the creative spark would be extinguished.

It is for this reason that so many creative ideas are spawned by complete accidents. Often, great ideas need to be stumbled upon. In some situations, one stumbles upon a great idea before realizing just how practical it is.

I began writing a Western several years ago. It was a very convoluted story about a priest in the Pacific Northwest who commits a murder and impulsively runs into the forest, where he befriends a wandering Nez Perce. It’s not really a bad idea; so much as it is totally impractical for a small budget. Struggling to find a handle on the script, I decided to take a camping trip up the California Coast, and into Oregon. During the drive, I began to notice the dramatic landscape. I knew I wanted to write a Western, but the one I had struggled over simply wasn’t working.

My mind then wandered onto stories my father had told me about the small town in which he lives. These were recent stories that would have easily mistaken for tales from the old West. From there, everything fell into place. I wrote my first dialogue scene at the campfire that night, using a flashlight to see my words.

The problem is that Hollywood is a business, first and foremost. It doesn’t encourage the creative spark. Its only concern is for the next cash cow. I like to think of Hollywood today as being like the Catholic Church of the Renaissance. Many artists are employed, but very few Michelangelo’s are to be found. The Renaissance period is remembered as a great era for European art, but so many artists were beholden to the Church. In the end, we remember those who made a more lasting impact contribution.

Creative thoughts often reach the mind like radio signals. They are floating around, waiting for someone to tune into the right station. Sometimes you catch it, but lose the tune. Other times it gets stuck in your head all day, like the first song you wake up to. Some people have strong antennas, and others simply don’t tune into the right station. The key is to tune into the station with the weakest signal.