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What I Learned from David Lynch

January 4, 2011

Laura’s Blog Entry

Over the holiday break Neil and I watched a documentary on film director David Lynch called Lynch, produced by blackANDwhite. It was as odd, interesting and inspiring as I had hoped it would be.  We became fans of David after being simultaneously entertained and disturbed by his early films Eraserhead and Blue Velvet. Then came “Twin Peaks.” We talked extensively about “Twin Peaks” on the podcast once, so I won’t rehash that here, but suffice it to say that we LOVED it. The crazy characters. The twisting plot lines. The seemingly random shots of ceiling fans.

The documentary we watched was filmed over a two-year period, by an apparently very patient filmmaker who lived and worked at Lynch’s home. What resulted is an very revealing, though not entirely surprising look at David’s creative process as the idea for the 2006 film Inland Empire began to evolve.

Watching this, I actually learned a few things that are affecting how I approach my creative life this year.

  • Life itself is a creative process. In the film you see Lynch go about his day-to-day routine. Talking on the phone. Filming segments for his website. Dipping a sport coat in a bucket of some bright green goo. Working on a large, mixed media art piece. Filming with actors. Photographing in an abandoned factory. All these things seem totally unrelated, but by the end they collectively result in him deciding he is making his next feature film. David Lynch is fully immersed. His life is pure creativity.
  • You don’t have to know where you are going to get started. Even David didn’t know that the scenes he was writing and filming individually were going to be tied together into one big story line. He called it “an experiment,” and repeatedly said that he had no idea what he was doing. Actually he said “I have no F&*#$^%G idea what I am doing.” Well said, David. Well said. We sometimes feel you have no idea what you are doing, but for the most part you pull it all together in the end and leave us pondering for days how you did it.
  • Pace yourself. If you ever want a deep dive into the process of learning patience, watch the films of David Lynch. That man sets the pace. You either get on board with it or run screaming from the room. Once you slow down and go with the flow, you start to realize on how many levels these movies communicate. Most obviously he works visually, but he also relies heavily on sound for atmosphere. Then he piles on the creepy vibe and you are off to Lynchland. I am paying attention to this lesson especially. The more I slow down my life the more I discover I need to slow down. It’s a fight against the culture, but worth the effort.
  • Create the life in which you want to live. While few can afford what appears to be a rather large home in California with wide open spaces and gobs of natural light, we do all have choices about the spaces we do have. We can make them tidy, if that inspires us. We can live in organized chaos, if that stimulates our ideas. Most importantly we can spend our free time filling our heart and minds with what excites and gets us moving.

All this has filled me with optimism and hope. Yes, and listening to Depeche Mode makes me cheerful. I know I am weird like that. Neil and I are starting this year with a fresh project all finished and ready to… well… we’re not sure what is going to happen with it. The possibilities are always endless at the beginning, aren’t they? Speaking for myself, watching this film has really helped me to see that while I don’t have control over what happens with it, I am in charge of my life. My life is not in charge of me. I can choose to be anxious and stressed and think of all the what-ifs, good and bad. Or I can continue to live a creative life and see what happens. Keep creating. It is equally about the process as it is about the product.

As a final thought I will mention that Sundance Channel happened to be running Inland Empire late the very night we watched the documentary. I don’t take coincidences like this lightly, so we DVRed it and watched the next day. Hello. That film will twist your brain eight ways to Sunday. What a ride.  If you are a Lynch fan, be sure to see it. All three hours of it. When the kids aren’t home. And with IMDB close by for help. You’re gonna need it.

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