Making Imagination work for you

“You are now engaged in the task of trying to profit by Nature’s method. You are (sincerely and earnestly, we hope), trying to adapt yourself to Nature’s laws, by endeavoring to convert DESIRE into its physical or monetary equivalent.”–Napoleon Hill

TAGR is filled with “read between the lines” material.   If indeed it is the clearest statement ever written of the means of material success, obviously that secret cannot be much reduced, or expressed with total simplicity, or everyone would know it already.

With the caveat that any interpretation on my part is hobbled by my own limitations, I’m going to say that the above quote is saying that if you wish to succeed, you must align your efforts and emotions with nature.

The “I.D.E.A.” Concept: Instinctive Designation of Energy and Attention is the same thought: that as a sailer learns to  use the wind and tide to reach his destination, this is what we must do in order to succeed, especially if we don’t have massive resources which turn us into the equivalent of power boats.

In Hollywood, executives typically are not creative people, but they constantly try to have creative input. Is this stupid?  I say “no.”

Executives are like officers who interface with the money people: they keep their eyes on how much things will cost, whether they are likely to return an investment, and how a project might influence the other projects on their slate.  The very worst situation is when they are producing a film they have no interest in (they would never see it themselves) and have no respect for the genre or perceived audience. The best situation is when they themselves enjoy the kind of movie or television show you’re making, so that they can give you a “gut sense” of what the audience wants. They ARE that audience. 

When asked why so many Hollywood films suck, I get a little defensive: this is my industry. I love it.  And in my opinion, Hollywood does as well as any other national media industry.  If you’ve traveled much and turned on television in other countries, you’ll quickly see that the reason some people think that country X or Y has better film or television is that they only import their best.   On average?  Just as bland or stupid as anything you’ll ever see in America.   At best.

So the problem is the nature of collaboration. Well, you say, why don’t they just hand a blank check to a filmmaker and let them go make their movies?  Because experience tells them it is a disastrous approach. Any director gets more and more power as their films succeed.  And as they do, it is often like writers who are edited less and less as their careers spiral upward. The usual thought is that writer X was best when working with a strong editor.

And a book is far less of an investment than a film.  Why don’t filmmakers just use their own money?  Because they are too smart to do that. Except for a few very very rare instances, that is a fast-track to going broke.  IF YOU CANNOT ATTRACT INVESTORS, WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THERE IS AN AUDIENCE?

So we have investors, and uber-execs who run the studios, and the “suits” who sit in the meetings and act as guardians at the gate.   If you think they are Philistines, they think you are a spoiled brat, wanting to spend their money without caring about their day-to-day experience of how things work.

Or, you could side-step that by seeing execs as potential allies. Find the right ones, and they will see you as the door to advancing THEIR career. And then you’ve got it: it is to their ADVANTAGE to getting your project made. And that can be an amazing feeling.

To do this properly, you will need to seek allies who are in essence part of your MasterMind group (more on that later).  But here, what I want to impress upon you is that you need to seek to combine their creativity with yours.  Why?

1) Because they are the ones who write the checks. They know what their bosses will say “yes” to.

2) Because you want them to be PERSONALLY INVESTED in your project.  If they can feel their DNA in your project, it is now a joint project, and they will fight for it.

3) Because if they are smart (and most of them are pretty smart, even if they are fumbling in the creative arena) they at least reflect the potential audience for your project.

If they aren’t smart, if they are antagonistic to your idea or you, or other factors, you will have to go on to the next one, and then the next one, until you find someone simpatico. You may have to create your own project AND THEN MARKET IT to prove you can make money with it before you attract a studio.

But when things are going pretty well, you can listen to their ideas, find some that appeal to you, and incorporate them into your project (as long as you don’t damage your original concept) and thereby increase your chance to succeed by bonding an ally to you.

And also, you have enhanced your functional creativity.  If you are sitting by yourself, you still have multiple “voices” in your head representing different possible actions or perspectives. They bang and crash into each other, argue, and you choose among them to take another step along the creative road.

When you have a creative partnership, even with an exec, something similar to this process takes place, and to the degree that you can find harmony, you can not only succeed, but will sometimes stimulate your own creativity in unexpected ways. I’ve been in countless meetings where someone said something smart, that worked, and actually improved the project.

But there are other times when people say something that just doesn’t work, and you have to stand your ground.   Collaborative creativity, even between parts of your own personality, is a matter of satisfying BOTH your creative (child) selves and your deepest values (elder) in alignment with your workaday (adult) self. 

Add a partner or partners? It is like threading a series of needles. While they are moving.  You are trying to get YOUR idea past all of THEIR filters.   

When I wrote for THE OUTER LIMITS, I pitched them an idea I originally called “Recidivist” about a woman who develops an approach to time travel. She waits until a serial killer has been executed, then goes back in the past and kills him before he’s killed his first victim, thereby creating her own series of impossible murders…

It turned into the award-nominated (Best Screenplay) and Emmy-Winning (Best Supporting Actress Amanda Plummer) episode entitled “A Stitch In Time” and I have to say that I was treated well, the entire cast and crew did a fine job, and that the changes (there are always changes) only improved the story.

But there was one moment when I had to stand my ground.  You see, the scientist (Amanda Plummer) was killing these men to work up the strength to confront the man who had kidnapped and raped her as a girl.When she finally confronts him, she kills him thereby changing her own future…and changing the timeline so that none of the other serial killers are killed.

The execs on the show wanted me to have her walk away.  Realize that if she did that, all those other victims would die.  They were all convinced they were right.

And I was convinced they were wrong.   I pointed out something about their assumption: every one of them in that room was a man.  Every one.  I told them to go home and ask their wives about that.  That if the wives agreed, I’d go along.

A couple of days later, I got a rather sheepish call saying yep, the wives had agreed with me.  Regardless of the cost to others, the primary emotional drive would be to undo the damage that had devastated her own life, turning her into an asexual “brain in a box”.

I’d taken a risk, but was in alignment with my values, my own sense of how human beings operate.  I’d respected my creativity, and as a result was rewarded with a deeper connection to my own flow.

I didn’t always have that courage.  If you haven’t heard the story about “Friday the 13th” and “Purple Heart” I’ll tell you sometime.

But right now, pay attention to the WAY you unleash your creativity, by holding to your values as well as generating tons of ideas through brainstorming or masterminding.   Remember that you will have to live with this project for weeks or months, and with their results for years or a lifetime. Respect yourself.

But also, when as all possible, respect all the warring parts of your personality, your partners, and the guardians at the financial gates.

Its work but it really is possible.

Namaste,

Steve

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