One of my favorite methods for producing a creative outcome begins by asking a single question:

“What do you want to address, explore or express?”

Address: Finding a creative solution to a problem is made easier when both the problem and the goal state are well defined.  In order for me to problem solve effectively, parameters are a must. Taking steps to clarify intent helps to better define the problem and the essential parameters.

Explore: One of the qualities I enjoy most about any creative process is paying attention during the stage of open-ended exploration.  The exploratory stage of a project can be a time of important discovery, because it is generally not clear where the exploration will lead. This is the stage where the unknown is welcome, and, perhaps, even sought after. This is the time to follow a thread that is intriguing, without immediate concern for the outcome. The more fully I explore a topic the more ideas I generate.  Very often the exploring will lead to new questions!

Express: Creative outcomes generally require some act of expression. Expression provides the tangible form of an idea or solution; the most creative outcomes express a distinct point of view.  Effectively expressing something novel usually requires more than a single iteration.  The key is to refine the idea, so that what is distinct about the point of view is clear.  If ever I find that I’m lacking clarity about what needs to be expressed, it is usually just a sign that there are elements of the topic that I need to address or explore further.

This question has been useful to me in countless situations. Because it is very general, but also very direct, the question helps me to problem solve in many different contexts and lends direction to my artistic pursuits.  For this reason, it has become an invaluable tool.

© 2014

This post was featured as DAY 24 in the Creativity Tools Project.  To view the original post, archive courtesy of Permamarks, click here.