The Great David Lynch Explains Where Ideas Come from & What to Do when You've Got One

David LynchThe fight for ideas is a long, exhausting one. At times it feels like no matter what we do to help inspire our creativity, the space between artistic revelations widens -- and without a firm idea on which to belay another, the stories, characters, and worlds we want to create may never materialize. But, an inspiring word comes from director David Lynch, who recently spoke with Paul Holdengräber at an event for BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) about how ideas are like bait: once you hook one you like, it's bound to bring in a more abundant, and abundantly bigger catch.

We've all been through dry spells. Ideas are slow to come, if at all, and even the ones that do don't really spark your interest all that much. They're the final dregs of a creative season that is drawing to a close -- and sometimes they seem completely worthless.

However, Lynch, whose creativity is the envy of just about everyone who does anything art-related, breaks down the nature of ideas, creativity, and inspiration. He first talks about how ideas appear to an artist, which I imagine could be different for everyone, and then ends with an extraordinary parable about "catching" ideas.

Check out the short video below:

It's a strange sensation when you desperately want to create something, but you just can't think of what it is you want to create. It's like your heart and mind are fighting against each other -- "I really want to write this script -- what the hell do I write about?" It's this strange mixture of passion  and mental listlessness, the subtle dance two magnets do as they're repelling one another, the worst kind of ennui -- the summer-night-in-high school kind. This, many times, kills creativity.

But, taking from Lynch's example, when you catch an idea (especially if you really like it), nurture it, because it's going to lead you to another if you let it. Getting frustrated because it can't hold the weight of your entire concept is understandable (I do it all the time), but demanding less, loosening your stranglehold on each idea will actually allow it to breathe and serve your project more capably. The trick is realizing that what you caught with small bait is actually bait itself, and will catch you something bigger!


What did you think of Lynch's idea of ideas as bait? Do you find it true in your own creative process? Let us know in the comments below!

[via BAMorg & Filmmaker IQ]

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Your Comment


I love the idea of there being many alternate other rooms where there are different versions of your film or your song or your piece of art. However sometimes that can be suffocating because everything is still in your hands and what if you're not quite placing the pieces together in the way that are designed to be placed, however much that is against the nature of art.

May 15, 2014 at 6:42PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I LOVE the two metaphors Mr. Lynch provided: 'the other room, where the whole puzzle already resides'; and the 'small catch as bait for a larger construction'. What wonderful models with which to contemplate how to amplify or enrich ideas that the universe has just given you.

Thanks, Mr. Lynch!

May 15, 2014 at 8:13PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


would love to see the whole video. Any idea if its available anywhere?

May 16, 2014 at 4:08AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Absolutely. I am just two short films experienced. For one of the short stories, which I had been working for almost 6 months, I experienced the same. The initial draft sounded a lot silly than believable. And I felt its worthless to work on it further. As I revisited it with intermittent breaks of several days, it continued to become more and more integrated. Now I feel like that's the best story I wrote till date. :).
I can relate this experience to Mr. Lynch's idea of "bait for bigger bait" and "the other room". Thank you for posting this.

May 16, 2014 at 5:11AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Mahesh Kumar Raju

"However, Lynch, whose creativity is the envy of just about everyone who does anything art-related" HAHAHAHA, slow down the Lynch deep-throating, the guy definitely has chops, but he's made 2 movies in the last 13 years... Tarantino's made's the difference between consistent vision and occasional luck.

May 16, 2014 at 8:26AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Sam: It's easy to put out 6 movies when you just remix existing ones. Lynch is a nutter but his films stand the test of time as truly original pieces of cinema. Perhaps his contribution has run it's course but it's a hell of a contribution so show some respect and please don't compare the guy who crafted the pop culture remix "kill bill" to the artist brought us "blue velvet" and "twin peaks".

Thank ya.

May 16, 2014 at 3:13PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


What the hell was wrong with Kill Bill?

August 5, 2014 at 2:20PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


spend the next year of your life watching movies religiously, of all genres and languages and shapes and sizes, then come back here you tell us, what's wrong with kill bill. nothing's wrong, but nothing's new. and nothing's really that good about it either.

QT is movie popcorn incarnate (pulp fiction & dogs are fairly dopeness tho)

August 6, 2014 at 10:27PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

will hc

Common misconception: to mistake quantity for quality.

May 17, 2014 at 9:15AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


If you are interested in ideas and creativity this Ted talk is really cool!

May 16, 2014 at 8:35AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


With Lynch it's more about Meditation. With Tarantino, Masturbation. ... ... Pick your Poison.

May 16, 2014 at 12:59PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


@Glendalina Ziemba
I love this analogy. Lynch just doesn't seem to exhibit purpose in the way that meditation does.

May 16, 2014 at 2:24PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Well stated.

May 21, 2014 at 12:49PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

You voted '-1'.
Christian Anderson

will the ideas it catches be in 4k though?

May 16, 2014 at 2:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM



May 22, 2014 at 3:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


The best thing you can ever do is let the story tell itself. You may start with a wonderful concept for a story but you should never write it in stone. If you let it, it'll evolve into something magical.

May 18, 2014 at 9:54PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I keep every single plot idea that comes to me when I'm writing and place it in a folder so it doesn't distract me from the current project. I also try to get an entire script written and then of course I let it sit for a few days. Then I review it and fix what I can. Then I let it sit for a few more days and repeat the process. I keep cleaning it up and adding new ideas. I also have a very good friend who is an excellent and very successful casting director for a major studio and he reads my scripts for me. He points me in the right direction. A lot of good ideas can be sifted out of what may be not such a good script. You have to find the good ideas and grow them from there. The challenge is to keep it interesting to your particular audience. Also, I don't care if my editors pick me to pieces as long as I get it right. You have to be willing to accept criticism.

May 22, 2014 at 1:07PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


If you have to look on the internet for ways to become as David Lynch, you'll never become as David Lynch. There is much more nature than nuture than 'how to' sites would have us believe.

May 23, 2014 at 3:10AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Well said

May 25, 2014 at 10:48AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Mario Vieira

A nice insight into the mind of David Lynch. About where ideas come from however, I think everyone should have a look at Kirby Ferguson's short videos called "Everything is a remix"

Amazing stuff.

May 29, 2014 at 1:50AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Mulhollland Drive = Best Film ever
nuff said

August 5, 2014 at 2:29PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM