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Director David Lynch on Ideas and Creativity

Twin Peaks Cafe in Washington

(This article contains affiliate links. When you order something from Amazon through these links, we receive a small advertising fee. It doesn’t cost you any more.) According to “Encyclopaedia Brittanica,” David Lynch is an Oscar winning director best know for his mind-bending films, “Eraserhead,” “Blue Velvet,” and “Mullholland Drive.” The TV series “Twin Peaks” originally ran for two seasons in 1990-1991 and inspired the prequel “Fire Walk with Me”; he brought the series back to the small screen in 2017. Lynch has also had is paintings and photos exhibited in Paris. Where does he think ideas come from?

Daydreaming and Travel

In his interview with “the Atlantic,” Lynch said, “You can catch ideas from daydreaming…” If you want to use daydreaming as a way to get those ideas, you need to set time aside to do it. Too often, people are far too busy and stressed to have time to daydream.

“…or you can catch ideas from places. If you think that maybe a place can conjure ideas, then you have to go out of the house and go travel.” New ideas aren’t the only benefit of travel. Going to new places and immersing yourself in new cultures will help create flexibility in thinking and adaptability. It opens the mind and provides a new way to look at the world.

Enjoying the Process

Lynch said in “the Atlantic” interview, “A lot of artists think that suffering is necessary, but in reality, any kind of suffering cramps the flow of creativity… Happiness in the doing is so important.” When you enjoy the process, you get into the flow of doing the creative act. Researcher Csikszentmihalyi describes this flow state as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Capturing Ideas

In a “conversation with Paul Holdengraeber,” Lynch says that when you get an idea: “you write that idea down, so you won’t forget it. And that idea that you caught might just be a fragment of the whole, whatever it is you’re working on, but now you have even more bait. Thinking about that small fragment, that little fish, will bring in more, and they’ll come in and they’ll hook on.” By capturing the idea, you earn the ability to get more ideas, and these ideas can lift you out of the drudgery to some “fantastic things.”

The Ideas You Love

In an interview with Russel Brand, Lynch says, “I fall in love with certain ideas and I want to realize those.” If you had to judge the ideas morally, “you would never be able to work… It’s the fantastic thrill of making them.” You have to be true to the idea, so that it will come out right.

Creativity is a meta-skill that you can apply across subjects. If you want to learn about becoming more creative in your area of expertise, subscribe to this blog and join our Patreon. My books “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” offer researched-based creativity tips in a fun way. “Penguinate! Positive Creativity” and “Penguinate! The Disney Company” offer essays and short stories with activities at the end to help you improve your creativity.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Brainstorming

Creativity comes when people aren’t afraid to make connections or sound dumb. People don’t like to be judged or have their ideas called stupid, even if they sound out there. Brainstorming sessions attempt to put people in a safe place where there is no judgement and they can dream as big as they want to. As an idea generation practice, Brainstorming can provide hundreds to thousands of ideas, depending on how many people participate and how long the session is.

Brainstorming sessions should have between 8 and 12 people. The session should last about 45 minutes to an hour though longer sessions can be advantageous if there are appropriate breaks. All brainstorming sessions have rules. At Disney in their blue-sky sessions, imagineers follow these rules according to “The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland”:

  1. There is no such thing as a bad idea.
  2. No talking about why it can’t be done.
  3. Do not stifle ideas with “buts,” “can’ts” and other negative words.
  4. There’s no such thing as a bad idea.

Not everyone agrees that brainstorming is a good idea. Edward de Bono says it’s a waste because so many ideas are discarded and the time to come up with them is wasted thereby. The process is inefficient. However, creativity is inefficient, so the brainstorming session, when the plan begins, should be the most inefficient part of the process.

De Bono also notices that some people try to top others, so the session results in people coming up with the most outlandish ideas. For me, that’s part of the point of brainstorming. Like Disney imagineers, I believe you never know where the best idea is going to come from, and it could come from a connection to an outrageous idea that someone else had.

Others decry the fact that brainstorming sessions have no follow up step. That’s up to the business to create. Recording the ideas and having the team follow up is easier if someone has the authority, time and resources to move forward with new ideas.

If you want to have a lot of ideas to choose from, start with a brainstorming session.

For more ABCs of Creativity, check these links. Grab a copy of “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Creating for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”