Here's an awesome TED talk by the author of Eat, Pray, Love about the nature of creativity. Do give it a watch, you won't regret it.
In it there is an amusing, rather hyperbolic, somewhat absurd description of how one American poet experiences moments of inspiration that gives creativity an almost tangible presence. I wished it were true, and I wished that my experiences with inspired moments were as clear and unsubtle and unambiguous and powerful as that. But they are not.
Instead, my experience has led me to think of inspired moments as something rare, given out in painfully slow and sparse drips for 99% of the time, although once every few years (2-4 years in my case) it comes in one single package, almost intact, with the internal mechanisms all set up and orderly and its anatomy miraculously already proper; halfway-baked, with nothing more for me to do except to finish the baking (without screwing up along the way). To date I have only really experienced one moment like that, where a movie idea appeared to me almost entirely in a 20-min train ride; the final screenplay draft that result differs just a little from that inspired original and needed just 20% more material to become complete.
I never used to be careful with the other ideas that appear in the rest 99% of the time, what I called idea nuggets, because these ideas come randomly, are single-unit ideas that are fairly insignificant as far as their value and impact goes, and is out of context of whatever it is I was thinking about at the time. They can be anything, from an idea for a scene, a piece of dialogue line, an interesting speculation, a thought, or a piece of original music (which, not being trained in music composition, I have absolutely no way of recording). When an idea nugget arrives, it's there, I feel it and understand it, appreciate it, enjoy it, but if it's not recorded down, it quickly recedes, and when it recedes, it's akin to the sensation of waking up after having a dream – you try desperately to hold on to the idea, but it slips away like water leaking out of a tub, and you can try and grab at it but it is soon gone, and try as you might to recall what the idea was, you can't. This entire process can be as short as one minute, I kid you not.
The theory I have about idea nuggets is: perhaps if I combined enough idea nuggets, they can synergise into a single, unified, giant of an idea - a high concept. That's possible and probable. But it hasn't happened yet. Well, it didn't help that for many years I was careless with these ideas. I never wrote them down, and since I don't write them down and I forget within minutes ... well, who knows what or how much I have lost, or not lost? Perhaps something big and miraculous. Maybe I could have written another successful screenplay by now. No way to find out now.
With that thought in mind, my attitude changed a little and in the past two years I've begun collecting these idea nuggets. There were numerous problems. For one, idea nuggets very often appear when I'm on the street, with nothing on me to record them down. So I started carrying a notebook, though not all the time. Well, the mischievous idea nuggets have a tendency to identify precisely those occasions when I wasn't carrying a notebook to arrive. They do it with such precision, it's uncanny. And so I continue to lose a great many more idea nuggets. Bastards. Nowadays I have an iPod Touch, which I bought partly because I would be carrying it around with me more often, and it has a Voice Memo function that I could use to record down these thoughts as they come, though I use the plain Memo app far more often.
I still don't know whether it'll help. Now I've collected maybe 6-7 pages worth of idea nuggets. They're disjointed, unconnected to each other, all over the place, and they belong to ten different movies that are being developed inside my head. They're in my iPod, on Google Docs, in a few random pages in a couple of notebooks. I wonder how many years will it take to collect enough idea nuggets for the first movie idea inside my head to be developed to completion. I worry that the answer's 20 years. I worry that it won't amount to much because I'm too lazy to go through all of them at the same time, and organise them into something that makes sense.
I feel like a failure. I feel like there probably is a way to tap into those innate abilities that I've caught glimpses of. But the problem is I don't know how, and I don't know how to begin to find out how. (Note: The TED talk above provides an alternative paradigm.) I also feel old in my mid-twenties – I have nothing to show for, and by the time I hit 30 it will be too late. I feel like I should be at my prime with the fullest potential of resources available to utilise, but with no project to mount that could make use of those resources, and hence these are wasted years. I wished it were not so.
Be annoying, for it is good!
17 hours ago