Sometimes those creative projects that don’t come together quite the way we initially thought they would end-up faring even better in the long run. Their proverbial 'clay' just needs some more molding. The key is to (a) never throw out work that’s been done - ever - and (b) keep an open mind with regard to how that ‘failed/rejected’ project can be tweaked so it’ll shine in a new way that you never thought possible. Filmmaker David Lynch and the making of Mulholland Drive is a great example.
During the 1990s, David Lynch was a force to be reckoned with: Twin Peaks was the hottest thing going on TV, Wild At Heart nabbed the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and there was a series of solo painting exhibits featuring Lynch’s unique style cropping up around the world. So it was no surprise when, in 1997, Lynch got the ‘go ahead’ from ABC to shoot a two-hour pilot for another TV series. In the end though, the network execs passed after viewing the finished piece. Now the story could easily end on that note, with Lynch merely shelving the footage and moving on to another project . . . but the Montana-born auteur had an even better plan.
How Lynch Turned A ‘Lemon’ Into Lemonade
After pooling together a bit of dough from a French production company, Lynch beefed up the script, shot a few more scenes, edited it all together with what he already had in the can, and released the whole thing as a feature film called Mulholland Drive. Not only did Mulholland win Lynch his second Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival, it also got him his 3rd Best Directing Oscar nomination, becoming one of the most talked about and best reviewed films of 2001. Today, Mulholland Drive easily ranks as one of Lynch’s finest films, alongside Eraserhead (1977) and Blue Velvet (1986).
The lesson here is two-fold:
- Don’t ever carelessly get rid of an idea. Just because something doesn’t gel exactly the way you first imagined it isn’t the signal to bury it altogether. File it away so you won’t forget it, adjust your mental creative dials to ‘simmer,’ and perhaps the project will resurface at a later time in a new as-yet unrealized form.
- Ignore rejection. So what if ABC said ‘No’ to Lynch’s series. What do they know anyway? And for that matter, what does anyone know about the merits of your unique idea or project? Even if all your friends give whatever you’re striving to create a big ‘thumbs down,’ carry on regardless. Only you know what’s best. And even if the whole thing sinks like a brick, big deal. Do it your way all the way.
Ignore ‘Flops.’ Follow Through Instead . . .
Anytime we set out to create a thing of beauty - a book, film, painting, sculpture, dance routine, whatever - there’s bound to be problems along the way. Sure, sometimes the money doesn't come through in time, but more often than not, it's our own feelings of self-doubt that end up sabotaging our work.
Abandoning an idea that we know in our heart is awesome just because someone else trashes it is always - always - a really bad move. That’s the same as allowing someone else to decide your own fate. Don’t ever give away your personal power like that, and don’t squash a project that may only require a few alterations to work. Remember, what ‘flops’ today could easily end-up flying tomorrow.
Always be Yourself.
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