The Creative Questionnaire

November 24th, 2008

Thanks to everyone who suggested questions we might ask creative people to answer.  I’ve gone through all the queries that were proposed, both on the site and via e-mail, and I’ve come up with what follows.

I’m putting it up now to solicit additional ideas before I start asking artists of various kinds to develop entries about their own creative process.  (USMAN — I’d really like to get the questions I accidentally deleted.)

Please get back to me by the Sunday following Thanksgiving, because I’m going to start talking to people then.

Here goes:


What book/teacher/person gave you the best advice about how to pursue your work, either for a living or for creative satisfaction? What was that advice?

Who or what has consistently inspired your style of work the most, and why?

At what point did you decide you wanted to live a creative life?  What was your early work like?  How long do you think it took you to get to a point where your work was good enough to share?


Where do your ideas come from? Can you give us specifics about an idea you actually pursued — where it came from, how you began to develop it, etc.?

What do you do in the days leading up to the point at which you actually sit down to begin a project?

When you’re about to start a new project, what are some of the ways in which you develop your original idea or brainstorm for new ideas?

How much do you know about the end result before you start work on the project?


What are your working habits — how often, for how long, where?  What kind of routine would you recommend?

What are your time-sinks, and how do you keep them from stealing your day?

Do you outline, work by the seat of your pants, or use the “headlights” method, where you can only see a short distance ahead at a time?

Do you avoid outside influences that might affect your work? (Reading other fiction writers, listening to other composers, etc.)

When you’re unsure about how to proceed on a project, what do you do to get past those feelings of uncertainty?

How do you maintain your motivation when it’s not going well?  When your plot is meandering or the picture is looking grey and tired or whatever – do you just keep going?  Do you pause and think about it?  Do you work on something else until that project calls you again?

How do you deal with it when you’re just plain stuck?

How accurate is your assessment, while you’re working, of how well it’s going?   Are you sometimes surprised later to discover that what you produced is better or worse than you thought it was?

Do you have other creative outlets that are “Not for public consumption” and just for you?  If so, what are they?  How do they relate to your primary area?  Do they sometimes enrich it, or do they compete for your energy?


When do you know that something is completed? That it’s no longer useful to keep altering, adding, changing and working on a piece? When do you stop? When are you satisfied with your work?

If you’ve completed something that you think is extremely successful, do you worry about meeting or exceeding that standard again?  How does past success (or failure) affect your work?

4 Responses to “The Creative Questionnaire”

  1. Dana King Says:

    This looks solid to me. I’d be surprised if some university might not be interested in the results. This could be the kind of thing graduate students salivate over.

  2. Suzanna Says:

    I agree with Dana. The results may make very interesting reading. Ever consider writing a book about writing, or the creative process, Tim? Not that you have oodles of spare time or anything…just a thought.

  3. Larissa Says:

    I’m particularly interested in the wrapping up section because i never know when something is actually done. Somethings things seem to just happen and it’s a complete thought and it’s done or it tends to come and go and there’s never and end and yet..

    and I agree-I think students would be fascinated

  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, all — I think creativity is one of the world’s most interesting topics. I’m especially interested in the meeting point between the creative impulse and taking action — the practical end of things, I guess. But that’s just me.

    If there’s enough interest expressed in response to the newest blog, we’ll move it forward.

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