Fishing With David Lynch: Creating Value From Nothing

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Photo by Richard Hook

Some people have the magic touch. They can create value out of nothing.

Painters transform a blank canvas into a work of art. Writers turn empty pages into informative articles. Gifted entrepreneurs are able to conjure creative business ideas out of thin air.

Where does this ability to create come from?

David Lynch’s Big Fish

A few weeks ago I was basking in the creative energy of the Sundance Film Festival. I love that burst of inspiration I experience every time I see an independent artist realizing their dreams.

In one of the screenings we sat right behind the celebrity judges. I wanted to lean over and whisper into Quentin Tarantino’s ear that he was my hero. I had a decade and a half of pent-up hero-worshiping to unburden myself of. But not wanting to risk a listing in the Celebrity Stalker Registry, I kept my enthusiasm to myself and avoided being banned from future festivals.

And with that confession out of the way, let’s get back to topic…

While waiting between movies, our party of film enthusiasts found shelter from the winter in a little bookstore. The first book that caught my eye was Catching The Big Fish – Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch.

I am fascinated by the creative process, I meditate, and I love David Lynch flicks. Needless to say, I was excited by the find. I bought the book to use as an inspiration source for when my creative juices need a jump start.

A few days ago I was browsing through the book and was impressed by an entry titled “Desire” on page 25.

Desire for an idea is like bait. When you’re fishing, you have to have patience. You bait your hook, and then you wait. The desire is the bait that pulls those fish in – those ideas.

The beautiful thing is that when you catch one fish that you love, even if it’s a little fish – a fragment of an idea – that fish will draw in other fish, and they’ll hook onto it. Then you’re on your way. Soon there are more and more and more fragments, and the whole thing emerges. But it starts with desire.

I love the analogy. For me it really does start with the desire for an idea. Then fragment by fragment something starts to take shape.

What Is Your Creative Process?

How do you do it?

What is your process for moving from a blank screen to a finished blog article, spiffy graphic design, or new business idea?

Comments (11)

  1. Hi Sterling,

    This is a great thought provoking post.

    As a blogger, I started with a list of topics. As time passed my list dwindled, and I began to panic. Panic and creativity do not mix well.

    Then I “had a talk with myself” and relaxed, not worrying so much. Soon the ideas began to flow, and often when you least expect it. Often, one idea sparks another. It’s like fishing and catching your limit in a short period of time.

  2. Sterling,

    I actually don’t do anything. I tend to reflect upon a challenge, but trust myself to find the answer without conscious thought.

    I find I wake up early with the answers to challenges or creative inspiration. I consciously feed my mind though through blogs, reading and people I meet.

    In terms of blogs, I have at times lacked inspiration, but it usually comes. I don’t have a real plan for the blog – and the direction changes quite a bit!

    But alot of the material is already there. Experiences and knowledge are stored away. It just takes a snappy headline I see in a newspaper, a blog post on a completely different topic, or a conversation I have with someone to spark an article.

    I’ve tried storing up blog posts in advance, but I have to admit it doesn’t suit me. Part of the fun of a blog is the anticipation – I don’t even know what I’m going to write about next!

  3. @Barbara – So true, panic & creativity don’t work well together. 🙂 Like you, my ideas often flow when I least expect it. Almost like its easier to be creative when I don’t try to force anything.

    @Ian – Thanks for stopping by. What a great way to live, to trust yourself to find the answer without conscious thought. That sounds like an almost effortless way to flow through life.

  4. I’m with Ian. I don’t actually “do” anything to spark creativity. Often times I’ll come up with several ideas throughout the day. I only follow through with the ideas that energize and excite me.

  5. @Amir – Thanks for the comment.

    @Abbie – I like that method of only going with the ideas that energize and excite. That goes along well with Lynch’s point of the ideas starting with desire. After desire, it’s energy and excitement that carry the fragments into a whole idea.

    I also don’t do anything specific for creativity. A lot my ideas pop up randomly like when in the shower or just before falling asleep.

  6. I start with a goal. Then break the goal down into steps. Then fill in or complete each step until it’s brought me to that goal. It works with blog articles and pretty much everything else!

    I also carry a little black notebook everywhere — I even keep it by the bed!

  7. In my life I find creativity where there is passion. I suppose the desire is always there and not always specific to any situation. In dancing my best creativity comes when I’m present, engaged with the music and my dance partner; it comes when I’m not afraid to do something that might look stupid; it comes when I’m willing to boldly draw attention to myself. Most importantly, it is essential to have spent time practicing so that when the creativity hits I have the ability to express it.

  8. When the idea comes I initially pounce on it. First I do a little rough mind mapping and empty my mind of all I think I know on the topic. Then I let it simmer for a few days going back to the file when inspired. I also keep a tape recorder in both car and kitchen because most of my inspired thoughts come during those off-work times.

    Good blog and article. I’ve subscribed so I shall return.

  9. @Amy – I like the word “passion”…it sounds like an elevated state of “desire”.

    Your point on being fearless is huge. The tip on practice is very important for “real-time” creative expression like dance or martial arts.

    @Tom – Thanks for sharing your methods and for the subscription (I subscribed to your blog for a few days ago…great advice there).

    I really like your complete “idea dump” method of brainstorming. The going back when inspired is something I’ll definitely try. It seems like I’d be much more productive when inspired rather than forcing myself through a “chore”.

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