The most important element in creative work

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Kate walks on the beach in front of me, her father to her right.

I don’t know what, exactly, I am looking for. Something, anything, which shows they share a gene pool— a 6th toe maybe? A flair on the right pinky which had been passed down through generations of Thompson feet?


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Flesh squished into sand as the ocean splashed up on our ankles.

With each step, I became more and more disappointed. Their footprints looked the same.

In fact, all of our footprints looked the same.

In fact, all of our footprints looked the same.

It is this upsetting same-ness which I have been fighting lately.

I wake up and there is water and then there is walking the dog and then there is pulling the dog away from someone’s old food. I get back to the house and there is coffee and then some work and then Kate is awake and it’s time to make her tea. Inevitably we do some chores for the day and work on a house which is somehow always in need of work and then probably do some laundry which is always in need of watching. Then there is food and then there is bed.

Movies and books aren’t making it better.

Protagonists are predictably tragic, then triumphant. Antagonists are evil until they are misunderstood. Monsters aren’t different or more scary, just bigger. Boy meets girl and then girl hates him and then later they fall in love. The faces and names and actors are interchangeable. And after studying how money works in the creative space, I am all too aware why producers are drawn to these safe projects.

I was ready to begin writing about the death of art, prepared to proclaim how far our species has fallen.

BUT THEN.

I watched a movie. It was not a groundbreaking movie. It was not an original movie. It was not a special movie. It is not a movie I ever want to watch again.

In the middle of this safe, studio produced, orange-and-teal colored Blockbuster — all the things I thought I hated — I found hope.

The movie was Creed II.

In the final scene, Creed is nearly knocked out cold. Swaying as he stands, the official asks him a question to make sure brain cells are still firing:

“What is your name?”

Creed looks right at the camera, a mountain of testosterone in the middle of the frame, and says:

“Creed.”

The referee — once more:

“What is your name?”
“CREED!”

I get goosebumps just thinking about it now. All the buildup of these Rocky movies, including the ones with the original Creed, paid off in a single line. Without this line, Creed II is just a movie about boxing. The finale meaningless spectacle.

I won’t talk about why that line specifically matters, I’ll just say this:

Details matter most.

It’s Eleven’s costume change in season 3 of Stranger Things. It’s the yellow towel hanging in the background of Annie. It’s a Dixie Chicks picture on the wall of a Taylor Swift video. It’s Christian Bale 150 pounds heavier than he should be, bowing his head to his chest in a scene where he is Dick Cheney pondering whether he should be Vice President.

Zoom in closer, and you don’t see my wife’s sandy footprint. You see the history of her DNA, a maze of lines telling the story of her ancestry. Her father shares some of the same lines, as does her grandfather, and his father. Scan every face in our species and you will almost always find two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth. And a footprint without details is identical to the one next to it. People are either brown or white or dark brown or bright white.

Calling all of life the same is a cynic’s exit.

Soak in the details instead.

Much love as always ❤️

— Todd B

This article first appeared on Medium