Good, Thoughtful Hosts #305: Inspiration from David Lynch with Jimmy Talarico

In this week’s episode, Cushing Terrell project strategist Jimmy Talarico explains how he shares David Lynch‘s philosophy about creativity: Sometimes you just have to stay open and know how to catch the fish.

Episode #305 Transcript | Listen on SoundCloud

Producer 00:00
Today’s special guest.

Jimmy Talarico 00:03
Hello, I’m Jimmy Talarico. With Cushing Terrell, my current role is as a project strategist. And my creative inspiration that we’ll be talking about today is the one and only David Lynch.

Sarah Steimer 00:21
Hi, everyone, it’s Sarah Steimer. And welcome to another episode of Good, Thoughtful Hosts. As you’ve heard, today, we’ll be talking about how director David Lynch has inspired our guest. And since no one can describe their creative process quite like Lynch himself, I’m actually going to go ahead and let the man take it from here for our introduction.

David Lynch 00:44
We don’t do anything without an idea. So they’re beautiful gifts. And I always say you desiring an idea is like a bait on a hook, and pull them in. And if you catch an idea that you love, that’s a beautiful, beautiful day. And you write that idea down, so you won’t forget it. And that idea that you caught might just be a fragment of the whole, whatever it is you’re working on. But now you have even more bait, thinking about that small fragment, that little fish will bring in more, and they’ll come in and they’ll hook on. And more and more come in. And pretty soon you might have a script, or a chair, or a painting, or an idea for a painting. I like to think of it as in the other room, the puzzle is all together. But they keep slipping in just one piece at a time.

Sarah Steimer 01:54
I wanted to get an idea from you. First and foremost, what is it about David Lynch, his work his process that inspires you?

Jimmy Talarico 02:02
Yeah, that’s a great question. So I should probably start with I think I was introduced to David Lynch when I was in college and studying for architecture. So he had ‘The Lost Highway’ that came out in ’97. And I remember, I saw that and I left, like, what just happened. And it kind of blew my mind because of how he was able to create scenes and imagery, not just using visuals, but with like ambient sound. And just the colors and lights and kind of the dynamics of how he would frame scenes with people was really intriguing. But then the other side was, I noticed, like his dialogue was just really weird. It always sounds like in his movies, like when he writes the dialogue that there’s probably, I don’t know, six or eight sentences for every sentence that’s spoken. And like there’s a lot more depth and kind of context to everything that’s being said, in these, like few lines of conversation, which is just like, it’s fascinating to me. So I got into kind of digging into him a little bit right after that, to find out that he started off as a painter. And he saw the breeze blew and made the canvas wave. And that’s what got him thinking about creating motion with his paintings. Then from there, it was like his he had these short films, and one specifically was ‘Six Men Getting Sick Six Times.’ And I don’t even know how I found this stuff back in the 90s. But I was able to come across these videos and just loved what he was doing with kind of these visuals and the sounds artistically with what he was creating. So that’s what inspired me to kind of dig in and think differently about my craft and the things I was doing with studying architecture and art on my own as well. Just kind of the what if was broader after after seeing what David Lynch was done.

Sarah Steimer 03:53
So let’s talk a little bit about that. Because it sounds like this is someone who came into your field of focus while you were really honing your craft, you know, what what do you think about his process, change the way you were working or changed the way that you were thinking about architecture even?

Jimmy Talarico 04:13
Yeah, I think it just, it gives you possibilities, right? Like, we all kind of maybe come into these creative experiences with a little bit of, you know, preconceived ideas, or there’s just our history that you know, these things that kind of own, what our perspective is on situations, which is all always that’s really good to explore if you can get away from you know, kind of some of the nuance of some of those things and just look at a broader perspective. But that’s what it really did for me, I think is gave me gave me that broader perspective of how I expand my thoughts even more into exploring creative solutions. That makes sense.

Sarah Steimer 04:51
That does make sense and that’s, that’s, that’s something that you know, I was kind of digging around into some interviews with Lynch and you know, maybe what he has said about creativity himself and inspiration. And something that I thought was really interesting that he said that I kind of wanted to get your thoughts on. It was He said, There’s no original ideas. It’s just the ideas that you caught. And he makes a reference to fish kind of swimming around, you know, fish, or the idea is you don’t make fish. But you can catch fish. What does that kind of mean to you?

Jimmy Talarico 05:23
I love that, because it came to mind too. And I gave a talk a few years ago about how artists think. And the example I gave there was basically like, an old television set with an antenna. And how, just like David Lynch is talking about, you know, it’s kind of like fishing for these deep sea fish. And, for me, it’s thinking about these ideas that are in the ether, and they’re kind of out there already. They’re already out, you know, in the in the universe, or floating out there. And we need to have some kind of receptor and this idea of like the old TV that has the big antennas on it, they’re collecting these waves that are just out there going through us and going through everything. And somehow this antenna collects these things and like, translates it into an image on a screen and sound on the screen that we can watch and communicates something to us. So I see that same thing where Absolutely, there’s the ideas are already out there. And it’s just a matter of, are we paying attention? And are we listening enough to understand and building on our intuition on how to kind of pull those ideas out of the ether and make them something that can communicate to other people. So that’s really I think, like, from a creative standpoint, and what we do as creative people, as artists, that we are some reason we have this gift of being able to tune into those things a little more intently, maybe, and a way to translate them into forms that other people can receive and learn from.

Sarah Steimer 06:51
Is there a way that you’ve learned to kind of open your personal creative aperture to collect these incoming pieces of inspiration of information so that you can put them together? You know, how do you personally cast that wide net stay astute to the world around you?

Jimmy Talarico 07:10
Yeah, every day trying to work on that. And it is a skill, I think it is something that it’s like a muscle that you have to work. But it really is about kind of paying attention to the unknown, right. So it’s like, you may have an idea, but you have to, like, really tune into when something feels like a shift. And it’s really super subtle, if you’re not used to it. But it could just be like how colors were combined between you know, bars and a tree or something or just things that like, the edge of the grass meets the edge of the sky or something like whatever it is, that might just have, you may not even notice that before how all the you know, the leaves of wheat or whatever blow and kind of create a current across the field. And that might have something to do with how you understand form and space. And people can experience a new type of form. It’s just like connecting these things that might not, they’re not loud. You know, first of all, that’s why it’s like kind of having to pay attention to the small kind of nuance of things that can capture your attention and move you to a new idea.

Sarah Steimer 08:14
I like that idea of just, you know, noticing the way leaves might move or you know, like you said grain might move and how you can sort of translate that into something else. And even it’s almost offering I think other people the opportunity to see that in the work as well. You know, to be able to look at something go, Oh, that reminds me of XYZ, which I think is so cool. Can you give me an example in your own work of when you did see something when you did have, you know, your antenna up and you’re able to pick up on something that then immediately dropped into your work and either solved a problem, or just added something really unique to what you are creating?

Jimmy Talarico 08:56
Oh, that’s that’s tough to find those moments?

Sarah Steimer 09:00
Yeah, I feel like I’m asking you like where do you see God?

Jimmy Talarico 09:03
That’s really Yeah, it’s kind of because there are there are some things like some things that feel really benign, like, it’s hard to point to the exact moment. But I know that feeling of aha like when when example when I was working on programming for a lab space in Silicon Valley for client ultimate genomics. And they’re really complex company that has a lot of different needs and different departments across different labs. And they were moving from a single building to two separate buildings, and which means they had to basically split their business into two separate buildings that were about a block away from each other. And I kept trying to figure out ways to to help them communicate to me actually, how they could split these departments up and I was working through spreadsheets, which really sucks I hate doing spreadsheets personally. But somehow I made the the shift of creating this matrix of having the departments in the x and the Y axes, and just put these boxes between them. And it made sense to me that they could just simply just click a box, that would be green, a box that would be yellow or a box that would be red, based on if they were critical adjacencies or not needed at all. And kind of let them tell me the story of this is where we need to have these spaces exist together. So that was like one where it’s like hard to kind of pinpoint an Aha. But that was the result of like, what the problem was, and then what the results kind of came to. There’s other things like with art that I’m working on, I’m trying to work on this, this kind of votive candle holder thing right now, just personally, and you just look at something and like, formally, it may not feel right. And I’m asking myself why. And I’m doing these things with like creating voids, in like a pottery basically, and filling them again with something like you know, flowers and epoxy or things like that, where they can kind of have multiple identities in this form. And when I’m, I’m working through this form, I realized that I really liked the shape of one of these olders versus another, I couldn’t quite figure out why. And I just realized it was because one had a consistent edge around the top of it, and the other one had kind of a tattered edge. And this is like really hard to see. I’m just kind of talking through this without having any imagery. But it was really clear just this perception of like, this feels better than this. And going towards what feels better. And just kind of picking up those cookie crumbs along a trail of this feels better, this feels better. This feels better until you get to something that feels right.

Sarah Steimer 11:37
There’s a lesson right there, though, too, as you know, just because you might have been inspired by something and it piqued your interest in the first place doesn’t mean that that’s going to be the final result, it might have just been part of the solution to you know, you mentioned, of course, that talk that you gave about inspiration and creativity. If you were to in the same way that Lynch talks about your finding the fish or catching the fish in the way that you talked about having that antenna up to be able to find things that are already out there that could inspire you. What about inspiration, do you think is the most important? You know? And I know, that’s a big, huge question. And we could probably like go on and on about it forever. But you know, I think a lot of people want to believe that this creativity, like comes from within maybe but you’re kind of making the argument alongside lunch that inspirations out there, you just have to be aware of it. You know, how would you maybe distill that? For our audience? What sort of advice would you give them about the importance of being open and allowing inspiration to strike when it does?

Jimmy Talarico 12:41
Yeah, that’s really the key, there’s, there’s that you have to be open to it. If you’re close to a specific way of thinking or your own ideas on a problem, then you’re not going to receive it. So you have to be open. And that can be challenging for a lot of people especially I think it comes down to there’s some self esteem things there of like, not wanting to look wrong or not wanting to feel like you’re wrong and a situation. But you have to be open to that you have to be open to failing and getting it wrong in order to know how to how to eventually get it right. And that’s just the practice of listening to what the ideas are and where they can go. Knowing that what you think you may have heard, may have gotten you to a place that you’re not happy with. And it’s okay to go back and to kind of re engage in that same process. But you have to be open to it.

Sarah Steimer 13:32
I’m glad that you mentioned that. I’m glad you mentioned that idea of like you may see something and it may not turn out what you wanted, but you just have to be okay with it. Because that makes me immediately think of my favorite David Lynch story and stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I’m going to tell it anyway to you. And I’m sure you do because it’s a pretty famous interview. But do you remember the interview he did with the Telegraph in 2017? Where he talked about rescuing five Woody the woodpecker dolls?

Jimmy Talarico 14:00
No, I don’t think I’ve heard that one.

Sarah Steimer 14:02
So this is this is one of my favorites. And I mean this, this speaks directly to what we’re talking about. So I’ll just I’ll very brief, I’ll go ahead and read it. So he talks about rescuing these dolls from a gas station in 1981. He says I screech on the brakes, I do a u turn. I go back and I buy them and I saved their lives. I named them Chucho Buster, Pete, Bob and Dan. And they’re my boys and they’re in my office. They are my dear friends for a while but certain traits started coming out and they became not so nice. Then looking straight ahead he added grimly they’re not in my life anymore. I just think that is such a first of all, that’s so David Lynch that he’s like oh my God, I need to have these woodpeckers in my life but just what you’re saying where it’s like something might seem great and wonderful and maybe it works for you for a while but then at some point you got to let it go because it’s just not there anymore. It’s it’s been an evolution. Not saying that everything’s gonna turn into something like grim and terrifying but Uh, yeah, that just that I always think anytime I think about him that’s that’s something that always cracks me up. He’s obviously super unique. Well, Jimmy, that that was most of what I wanted to chat with you about. Was there anything else about creative inspiration, you know, especially since you’ve obviously thought about this quite a bit before, or about David Lynch that you wanted to mention before we kind of wrap up today.

Jimmy Talarico 15:21
I would just think, just encourage whoever’s listening to this, that if it’s an interest of yours to discover your creativity or to work on that, allow yourself the space to do that. Allow yourself the time to pursue that, but be okay with the tiny steps that it takes, especially at first, it’s gonna take a while to kind of rediscover what that voice sounds like, what you’re listening for, like, give yourself the time and the space and the grace to pursue that. Be okay with being wrong, and be okay with the small discoveries that you get up front.

Sarah Steimer 15:58
Fantastic. Well, Jimmy, thank you once again, for coming on and chatting with us today about all of the above. Of course, it’s always like I said, a pleasure to talk about probably one of my, at least top 10 favorite directors say yeah, but thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Jimmy Talarico 16:16
You bet. Thanks, Sarah.

Producer 16:24
Music for Good, Thoughtful Hosts was written, produced, and performed by Sam Clapp. Our moderator is Sarah Steimer. Editing by Travis Estvold. And a special thanks to our content development team, Amanda Herzberg and Marni Moore. For more information about the podcast, visit Thanks for listening!

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