“Yes, I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can find his way by moonlight, and see the dawn before the rest of the world.” Oscar Wilde
“Don’t let yourself be weighed down by what other people think, because in a few years, in a few decades, or in a few centuries, that way of thinking will have changed. Live now what others will only live in the future.” Paulo Coelho
Just recently my husband and I started watching a new summer series The Bridge on FX. We wanted to watch it partly because we live one mile from the border of Mexico. Would the series tell of the story of what it’s like to live on the border? We were pleasantly surprised.
The first episode begins when a body is found on the bridge from El Paso, Texas to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. One half of the body is in Mexico, one half in the U.S. and law enforcement on both sides must work together to solve the murder mystery. As we get to know the two main police officers on the case, we also get to see how differently their departments work. But more than that, we get to see life on both sides of the border and how interconnected it is. In some ways, life on the Mexican side is much like ours and in others, it’s vastly different. It’s much more violent and threatening. That’s what makes the series compelling. The writers are letting us see into each character’s life experience. They’re letting us get a glimpse into a world we might not ever get to experience. To me that’s great art.
As, I was thinking about that show, I was thinking about my own creative process. What is my creative process and how do I describe it? Serendipity gave me a helping hand. Yesterday, while I was cooking, I was watching a movie I’d recorded some time back, The Magic of Belle Isle, with Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen. He’s an alcoholic writer, who’s lost his writing muse, until he goes to Belle Isle for the summer and meets a newly single mother and her three daughters. The middle daughter waltzes over to his house uninvited and demands that he teach her how to use her imagination to write. As incentive to accept her as a student, she offers to pay him $34, all the money she has. Since he’s short on cash, he accepts.
In her first lesson in imagination Freeman’s character asks her to look down the road and tell him what she sees.
She says, “Nothing, it’s just a road.”
“Okay,” he says, “tell me what’s not there.”
It takes her a few lessons before she can tell him a story about something that only she sees. That’s the beginning of her writing career. In the end he tells her to “Never stop looking for what isn’t there.”
I realized that’s what I do. That’s what other creative people do. They look for what’s not there and then they use their chosen media to make it a reality and we’re all affected by the new vision we see. That’s what Steve Jobs did when he created the iPod, iPhone and iPad. We didn’t know we needed those things until he invented them. We might not see the horror of war until we see it presented graphically on the screen, we don’t know the beauty of the wheat field until we see it in a painting. We don’t know the anguish of living in a hostile environment on the border of Mexico, until we see it portrayed on the screen. That’s why we need artists. They show us a new world.