Thursday, May 21, 2015

What Are the Right Questions?

There's an old adage that states "there are no stupid questions" - well maybe there's no stupid questions, but there are questions that won't help - that will lead you into a wall. For example: "what should I shoot / paint / write?" Those types of questions are too big and they fail you because they create an expectation that there is a "correct" answer - a solution, when instead you should be looking for a path. This mistake is understandable considering our entire educational lives we've been tasked with finding the "correct answer" and then rewarded when we find it.

I believe creativity is about the ability to ask questions that don't have answers. The purpose of a creative question isn't about finding a solution, it's about engaging your curiosity. Being curious about the world, about people, about how things happen. A creative question is one that doesn't necessarily have a solution, but rather it gives you ideas or experiences that generate creative activity...which often leads to more questions.

For me, making art is about noticing your surroundings (that can be environmental, emotional, political, social or even psychological!) and really taking the time to pay attention. This is essentially the question of "what is happening here?" This type of question brings in your observational skills and is a surefire way to access ideas because you're starting to partner with your surroundings.

A good question is one that gives you a path to explore.

Be curious - being curious is really about being interested.

At home, find somewhere comfortable to sit where (hopefully) you won't be disturbed. Slowly look around - first without moving your head, then turning your head and really giving everything your full attention. Pick one object and ask yourself what it says about you - why is it there? Could you imagine a story based on that object? Where did it come from, who designed it, what inspired you to put it there, what will happen to it in 30 years...all of these could become a story or an image or even a muse in general. Now, take this practice into the larger world - try it at lunch in a restaurant, in the morning at work. See how many questions you can ask that give you ideas, create partnerships with the world around you. Valuing the question as a goal in itself.

This post was inspired by a Harvard Business Review article on "Relearning the Art of Asking Questions" that was a bit more solution oriented than I wanted, but focused me on the importance of the question to our creative lives. An interesting tidbit was, apparently as we get older, our questioning decreases - which makes sense if you're thinking about creative output - because as children, it comes so naturally to us - we revel in our exploration of the world without self-censoring or worrying about being correct/perfect.

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