David Lynch (And You and Me) On Creativity

I attended a gathering in Seattle this week to hear David Lynch speak about his creative process, filmmaking, and how his creative successes stem–according to him–in large part from his 33-year, twice-a-day commitment to transcendental meditation.


What a trip this talk was! I adore many of Lynch’s films: Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, Blue Velvet, etc. Some classics, for sure. But I must say that I was deeply intrigued by how his meditation gets him to [paraphrase] “a state of bliss where he’s able to receive creative visions more easily.” For what it’s worth, the book is not a diatribe, but instead is a series of a hundred or so short aphorisms worth reading. Buy Lynch’s new book here..

First, I believe deeply in the effectiveness of mediation and the mind’s ability to find whatever it’s looking for…

Second, having dabbled moderately into meditation, and having embraced a formal training in the philosophical study of aesthetics, but having NOT stuck with either one of those paths to fostering my inner creative, I’m keen to offer NOT how to meditate like Lynch or study esoteric thoughts of dead white men, but rather four simple things I’ve found I CAN do to stay in creative touch. Thus, I use Lynch as a springboard to hijack this entry and throw in my two cents. Because you likely will not mediate twice a day for 33 years, you should:

1. Keep a physical list of creative ideas that come to mind. I keep a notebook logging ideas that pop into my head. I’ve even downloaded voice-recording software called Audacity onto my Treo 650 that allows me to surreptitiously leave a quick voice note to myself for those times when my laptop or pen and paper are not handy.

2. Refer to that list often. I spin to that list a couple times each week, if not daily. That list is long. That’s okay. Do not be afraid.

3. Leverage #1 and #2 and take purely creative time for yourself. My best work is when I shoot on my own, without art directors and the pressure of “making money”, from ideas straight off my list. Furthermore, I seek to develop those ideas with my staff whenever possible. We literally designate time to sit around and fantasize about making interesting photography. Make your dream pictures! Set aside some budget to do what YOU want. FWIW, I also take time to pursue other outlets: blogging, painting, writing, ambient video etc. Commit to this, and reap great rewards.

4. Vigorously study, read, devour the creativity of others. Don’t be a ripoff, but get inspired! Seek creative friends, books, magazines, and whatever else motivates you. Learn to understand and put to work the creative inputs in your life.

Any system to stay creative is only as good as your ability to stick with the system. That’s why I set modest goals for myself like the above four items. (have you seen my Personal New Year’s Resolution entry? -that’s on par with a plan I can stick with…)

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Matt Mikulla says:

Your respect for Mr. Lynch makes sense. There is so much story within your individual images and sets.

I studied Media Arts with a heavy emphasis on storytelling at University of Montana, in Missoula. Funny that lynch was born there and I’ve heard the Wilma Theater influenced Blue Velvet. I have felt a connection to David Lynch because the time I spent in Montana, Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest.

A true genius.

Chase Jarvis says:

No problem Dean. I’m happy you had lots of questions. Glad the talk was inspiring, and glad we share David Lynch in common, among other things! I’ll check out your sight when i have a spare moment. Great to have you on board the blog too.

I must admit I am not the biggest fan of David Lynch, however I do find the movies creative and original for the most part. As for the tips they are nice, I think I may try and keep these in mind when I am in a creative slump or better yet use them to help avoid them. Great articles you have here Chase.

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