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David Lynch: On the Art of Fishing for Ideas (Video)


The director of films such as Inland Empire and formal experiments like Twin Peaks says that ideas come from waiting, from patience, and not from action.

An idea is a form (an eidos) in which ideas present themselves to our consciousness: it can be a sensorial suggestion or an intellectual satori, but this movement of filling and emptying is akin to a tank full of shapes waiting to be anchored, observed and fed, etc.

Original like few others, the filmmaker David Lynch does not consider his ideas as ‘inventions’ in a mechanical sense. In this conversation with Paul Holdengräber, Lynch says that ideas often come to him in small fragments, often miniscule, the size of a small handwritten note on a piece of paper. This ‘small’ idea in reality is the seed of a shape.

Employing a beautiful metaphor of fishing, Lynch talks of this small idea as “bait.” Bait on a fisherman’s hook is something alive that enters into the tank of ideas and attracts the hungriest ones. “Thinking of that small fragment —that little fish —will bring more,” Lynch says. “And they’ll come in and they’ll hook on. And more and more come in, and pretty soon you might have a script –or a chair, or a painting, or an idea for a painting.”

The fragmentary and the complete: it is in this dynamic where ideas appear, as it cannot be said exactly that an idea “is created,” but rather that it appears, with a lesser or greater degree of unity, in our consciousness. Another very appropriate metaphor of Lynch to describe his ideas and his way of working is that of a jigsaw:

I like to think of it as if in the other room a puzzle is all together –but they keep slipping in just one piece at a time.

Fishing and doing a jigsaw appear to be passive and not particularly dynamic procedures with which to face the creative process; however, they show us that inspiration can also come from a patient wait, and that it has nothing to do with somnolence. Kafka had earlier explained this better in one of his aphorisms:

There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can’t do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.


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