THE CREATIVE POWER OF QUESTIONS

by Lee Anne White

Over the years, I've come to realize that questions are generally more powerful than answers. They encourage us to explore, to dig deeper, to think and reflect. Sometimes in that digging process, what we find are more questions than answers. Yet those questions help drive us forward, to understand ourselves better, to identify ways in which we can continue to learn and grow. Questions tap our sense of curiosity about the world around us, the people we meet and ourselves. They help us see things in new ways.

As I continue my explorations into the worlds of encaustic and mixed media, I find I am asking many questions. Does this new work include my photographs or does it stand entirely on its own? Does it explore the same subjects in new ways, or new subjects altogether? In what ways does my sense of visual style carry over into the other media? In what ways might it be necessarily different? Is this an extension of my photographic work, simply a diversion, or a new direction entirely as a grow as an artist?

These are some of questions I carry around with me daily. I explore them in my journal, mull them over while doing the laundry or driving to yoga class, and even dream about them when I sleep. They follow me to the studio, where I ask these and many other questions that relate to individual pieces I'm working on. And there, I often ask a lot of "What if..." and "How might I..." questions as well.

What are the questions that help propel you forward in your work and your creative process?

SITTING WITH THE QUESTIONS

While it is generally important to answer questions in order to move forward in your creative work, it may be equally important to learn to sit with them for a while.

One of the most often overlooked steps of the creative process is incubation. I suspect it is because we live in a world of immediacy. Everyone seems to want everything now. We feel rushed to make decisions and move forward. Creative work is expected to be delivered in a fraction of the time it used to be before computers, email and the cloud. We send off short, hurried emails to family and friends rather than taking time to handwrite thoughtful letters and carry them to the post office. Admittedly, there are times immediacy is nice. But in the creative process, taking some time to mull over the possibilities and to allow your brain to make new, unexpected connections is where some of your best ideas come from.

Among the characteristics of creative individuals is the ability to live with ambiguity--not being afraid of not knowing. And I've discovered through trial and error that when I reach the point in the creative process where the answer just isn't coming, where I don't know what to do, or when I feel really frustrated--sometimes that I'm may even be at a dead end, that's when I walk away from it all. Not forever, just for a while. Maybe for a walk with the dog. Maybe to sleep on it over night. Or maybe to set it aside and work on something else for a while. I've learned to trust my subconscious to work on the questions while I go about other business. So while it may appear that I'm procrastinating, I'm really just allowing ideas to incubate. There is power in going back to a project with a fresh perspective.