In the last few months, I've added David Lynch and Lynyrd Skynyrd to my list of influences. As far-fetched as that sounds, I have plenty of reasons why Lynch's Catching the Big Fish book and a story about the writing of "Freebird" have helped me not overthink and second-guess myself.
While he gets a lot of looks these days for his views on product placement and the iPhone, I find a lot of what Lynch allows to be a breath of fresh air. I'm not about to make dream-like movies or start meditating, but his grounded look at life resonates with my look at life. Maybe it's due to the fact that we were both raised Presbyterian, but I'm not sure.
He's told the story of how Frank Silva was cast as Bob in Twin Peaks (he was a set dresser who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, even if he was accidentally in the reflection during a Mrs. Palmer freak-out) and how the "In Dreams" segment in Blue Velvet had a certain light in it (the lamp was there on the set and he decided to use it on the spot) many times. But there's a theme I get from them: if you come up with a good idea -- doesn't matter where, when or how --- don't overthink it and just go with it.
In my case, if it's a matter of inviting a newly-made friend out to a party, getting mutes for my drumset, or merely suggesting a great album to a longtime friend, I try that before all sorts of doubt and second-guessing creep in my head.
Another line he's often used is on focusing on the donut instead of the donut's hole. In the case of his films, the donut is writing of the script and the experience of making the film. The hole represents box office numbers, mixed audience reactions, mixed movie reviews, and so on. In other words, the focus is on the experience of making something rather than the feedback after you've made something.
Another one is a passage from the "Fear" chapter:
I hear stories about directors who scream at actors, or they trick them somehow to get a great performance. And there are some people who try to run the whole business on fear. But I think this is such a joke -- it's pathetic and stupid at the same time . . . If I ran my set with fear, I would get 1 percent, not 100 percent, of what I get.
I agree completely with that work ethic. I've never been in a 100 percent terrible work environment, but there's a reason why I try to not chew out co-workers, editors or bandmates. I've seen people be ripped apart for being human and that's just not the way I like to treat others. And if you think Lynch can't get a great performance out of his actors this way, just watch Naomi Watts in Mulholland Dr.
So, where does the "Freebird" stuff factor in? Well, I remember reading an article in Guitar World a few years ago about how it was written. As the band wrote its various parts, they had trouble remembering everything they had written. In response, I believe Ronnie Van Zant said, "If you can't remember it, it's not worth remembering."
Coupling that with Lynch's attitude about going with an idea, there's a big influence for a lot of my blog posts and ideas I put into my books. I'll come up with an idea, and if I think it's good and can remember it, I go forward with it.
These may sound like strange bedfellows, but that's how I connect a lot of stuff in my head. I don't think I would have been able to do the same if had to read Socrates and Descartes for school.