"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

19 May 2012


I suspect many people never get a handle on their creative identity. They take their urges, their biases, their work habits for granted. But a little self-knowledge goes a long way. If you understand the strands of your creative DNA, you begin to see how they mutate into common threads in yoyr work. You begin to see the "story" that you're trying to tell; why you do things you do (both positive and self-destructive); where you are strong and where you are weak (which prevents a lot of false starts), and how you see the world and function in it.

Take the following questionnaire. If even one answer tells you something about yourself, you're one step closer to understanding your creative DNA. There are no right or wrong answers here. The exercise is intended for your eyes only, which means no cheating, no answers to impress other people. It's supposed to be an honest self-appraisal of what matters to you. Anything less is a distortion. I urge you to answer quickly, instinctively. Don't dawdle.

Your Creative Autobiography

1. What is the first creative moment you remember?
2. Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it?
3. What is the best idea you've ever had?
4. What made it great in your mind?
5. What is the dumbest?
6. What made it stupid?
7. Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea?
8. What is your creative ambition?
9. What are the obstacles to this ambition?
10. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?
11. How do you begin your day?
12. What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat?
13. Describe your first successful creative act.
14. Describe your second successful creative act.
15. Compare them.
16. What are your attitudes toward: money, power, praise,rivals,work, play?
17. Which artists do you admire most?
18. Why are they your role models?
19. What do you and your role models have in common?
20. Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you?
21. Who is your muse?
22. Define muse.
23. When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond?
24. When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond?
25. When faced with impending success or the threat of failure, how do you respond?
26. When you work, do you love the process or the result?
27. At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp?
28. What is your ideal creative activity?
29. What is your greatest fear?
30. What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening?
31. Which of the answers would you most like to change?
32. What is your idea of mastery?
33. What is your greatest dream?

I devised this questionnaire because it forces us to go back to our origins, our earliest memories, our first causes. We change through life, but we cannot deny our sources, and this test is one way to recall these roots.

The better you know yourself, the more you will know when you are playing to your strengths and when you are sticking your neck out. Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the the uncomfortable.

- Twyla Tharp, from The Creative Habit

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