Having just finished the book Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists I am feeling the need to talk about creativity and limits.
I had never heard of the film until my husband bought the book and was engrossed in reading it. He passed it to me when he finished and it was a riveting tale of what happens when we allow creativity to be an unfettered process, without any limits. None. No limits of basic courtesy towards co-workers, absolutely no notion of wasteful extravagance. No practical consideration of how chasing perfection through creating more than 2 weeks’ solid viewing of footage, take after perfectionist take, could ever be successfully rendered into a watchable film. And by all accounts, no consideration of actual story telling or character; all was sacrificed to the creative altar of the visual spectacle.
While reading, goggle eyed, about the film’s gradual but inevitable slide into excess with the (presumably Narcissist) Michael Cimino directing, I kept on reflecting on the importance of imposing limits on creative endeavour.
Counter-intuitively, imposing limits seems to let something fly loose in the creative process. Take for example, poetic limitations, and the iambic pentameter some of us may remember from our school days. The great sonnets of Shakespeare, Donne et al. The wondrous creativity that was unleashed as they grappled with the limitations of the medium to create something fresh and beautiful.
Perhaps a weekly blog is not quite the same constrictive process as an iambic pentameter, but there was something about the experience of reading this book that made me appreciate anew the importance of discipline. And self-reflection. And not being an arse.
Steven Pressfield covers this so well in his book The War of Art
What I call Professionalism someone else might call the Artist’s Code or the Warrior’s Way. It’s an attitude of egolessness and service… When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication… we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron fillings. Ideas come. Insights accrete
Discipline. Regularity. The Muse. Bring it!