David Lynch on creativity

Here are some quotes from my favourite living artist, David Lynch, about the creative process. They’re from Chris Rodley’s book, Lynch on Lynch:

On turning Mullholland Drive from a failed TV pilot to a successful feature film: 

Well, one night I sat down in my chair to meditate and whoosh – the whole thing came to me, and I saw it! These ideas came in from six thirty to seven, and I saw a way forward based on these ideas…It was a miracle that those things came in that way. Ideas never really come all at once for a whole feature anyway. They come in fragments…With Mulholland Drive I had a whole bunch of a certain type of fragment – open-ended fragments. So they needed a certain type of idea to come in and tie them all together. That was the trick…

How ideas are like fish: 

The Surrealists would trick themselves. They’d get a bunch of words and throw them up into the air and – this is what I imagine – they looked at the way they landed. Or a bunch of images, and see how they landed, and get ideas based on random acts…There’s an expression ‘where your attention is, that will be lively’. That is a truthful and magical expression. You could think about that for a long time. It’s like the focus and the desire form this bait, and the fish – which are the ideas – are the lovely things that start swimming up there. You can catch the fish, but it’s understood not to be a sure thing each time you go looking for them.

On darkness and light: 

How big the mind is we do not know. It’s a beautiful place, but it can also be pitch dark. Sometimes ideas come into my mind that make me crazy. I don’t know where they come from and I don’t know what purpose they serve. That’s one thing about meditation – eventually it cleans those stresses and terrible things. You can deal with those things in psychiatry but in dealing with them in that way, they come up again. So it’s a double whack! In Transcendental Meditation, the twisted stress becomes like water in the sun on a hot pavement. It just evaporates. You don’t re-live the stress. So you get a stress-free nervous system filled with the Being and there are no dark corners. There’s just light, and you see the great big beautiful picture.

But as a writer and director you don’t seem at all interested in making a film about that state of grace. Your characters are mostly still in the land of darkness and confusion.

It’s strangely true what you say. It would be interesting if something like pure bliss consciousness came out in a certain way, but it would have to come out as an organic part of darkness and confusion. We enjoy seeing nice people tempted into some same situations that test them. Each film is sort of like an experiment. We need to gain knowledge and experience through combined opposites. Free will and experience often get us into trouble but hopefully we learn from that trouble.

On randomness, and contingency – the case of Rebekah del Rio singing ‘Crying’ in Mulholland Drive, in Spanish: 

That was an accident. My friend and former music agent at CA, Brian Loucks, calls from time to time and says ‘I want you to meet so-and-so, can we come over for coffee?’ One day, he calls me and says, ‘I want you to meet Rebekah del Rio’. So Rebekah comes over at ten o’clock in the morning and we set up a microphone. Rebekeah just wanted to come over for a coffee and sing in front of us. She didn’t want to record anything, but she came in and four minutes later – I think before she’d had her coffee – she’s in the booth. And the one take that she sang, four minutes off the street, is the vocal that’s in the film. THE ACTUAL RECORDING!  The weird thing is that she chose to sing that particular Roy Orbison song. And I start thinking about it. We listened to it after she left and I said, ‘She’s gonna be in the film’.

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