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Step 1: The Creative Process

Develop Personal Questions for Inquiry

“Power questions question power.”

In the 1999 film “The Matrix” the main character, Neo, is profoundly disturbed by the society he lives in, but he doesn’t know why. He feels stuck and dissatisfied with the life he lives. He knows something is wrong with the world but can’t put his finger on what it is. The storyline of the Matrix is driven by one initial inquiry question. The question and the hero's search for its answer is what the movie is about.

Neo meets a woman named Trinity and feels an instant connection to her. Trinity is driven by the same question that drives Neo, but unlike him, she seems to have found the answer. They meet face to face for the first time at a party. Here’s how the movie script reads:


An older Chicago apartment: a series of halls connects a chain of small high-ceilinged rooms lined with heavy casements.

Neo stands against a wall, alone, feeling completely out of place. He is about to leave when he notices a woman staring at him.

The woman is Trinity. She walks straight up him.

The MUSIC is so loud they must stand very close, talking directly into each other's ear.


Hello, Neo.


How did you know that—


I know a lot about you. I’ve been wanting to meet you for some time.


Who are you?


My name is Trinity.


The Trinity? The trinity that hacked the I.R.S. Kansas City Data-base?


That was a long time ago. What?


I just thought… you were a guy.


Most guys do.

Neo is a little embarrassed.


Do you want to go somewhere and talk?


No. It’s safe here and I don’t have much time.


That was you on the message board tonight. That was your note, wasn't it?


I had to gamble that you would see, and they wouldn't.


Who wouldn't?


I brought you here to warn you, Neo. You are in a lot of danger.


What? Why?


They're watching you. Something happened and they found out about you.


I don't understand --


You came here because you wanted to know the answer to a question.


The Matrix. What is the Matrix?

And there it is. This is the one question that drives the storyline of the next three Matrix films.

The story of Neo, the development of his character, his becoming “the One”, his falling in love with Trinity, and his final confrontation with the architect of the Matrix itself— all begin with ”what is the matrix?”

Creativity starts with asking questions. Creative people are always looking at the world that’s happening around them, at the reality that everyone else usually just accepts, and asks: What if we did this? Or tried that? It takes creativity to solve problems.


When I was in high school, I always wondered how to develop my crazy ideas.

Even when ideas came to me, and I had tons of them in high school, I didn’t always know what to do with them. I had trouble separating the good from the not-so-good. It wasn’t until I went to art college that I learned that there was an actual process behind idea and concept development. Learning the steps to creative process not only improves the initial idea or concept, it increases the probability that an idea will go from concept to production.

It’s one thing to have an idea, but it’s another to take that idea and develop it into something tangible and useful.

As teachers, we want our students to question their world. Question everything. Ask searching and personal questions, questions that matter to you. What issues do you care about? They can be big or small. I am not exaggerating when I say the world desperately needs your creativity. You live on a planet in trouble, one in need of creative and innovative solutions to big problems that will affect all of us.

Here’s a list of the worlds 10 biggest problems, according to polls taken, in reverse order of their ranking.

10. Lack of economic opportunity

9. Safety and security

8. Lack of education

7. Food and water security

6. Government corruption

5. Religious conflicts

4. Poverty

3. Income Inequality

2. Conflict, wars

1. Climate change

Identify the issues you are concerned about most. What about the issue makes it personal? Spend some time in self-reflection. It won’t take long before personal inquiry questions begin to emerge. Write those questions down, as they will guide you to the next step in the creative process.

Inquiry questions are those that stimulate a wide range of responses, and warm up the brain to prepare it for deeper learning. Inquiry questions naturally lead to…

1. Abstract thought

2. Self-assessment

3. Comparing and contrasting

Inquiry questions require an intelligent response, more than just yes or no. An inquiry question is an invitation to think and take action, not to simply recall, summarize, or cover the facts. It’s your brain trying to creatively solve a given problem.

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. Albert Einstein

Questioning, critical thinking, and the creative development of new knowledge through inquiry are as important to learning as information gathered through research. The questions you develop will serve to direct your research.

Here are some reflection questions to get you started:

Why do you care about the issue you’ve chosen?

How are you personally connected to this issue?

Does an image come to mind when you think about this issue?

If a solution to the problem were found, what would that look like?

Who would benefit most if the problem were solved?

What is preventing the issue from being addressed or solved?

If the issue remains unsolved, what will the consequences be?

Basically, you are asking who, what, when, where, and why?

Don’t think about art yet. Don’t force yourself to come up with ideas. If a picture happens to come into mind, make a note of it by writing a description of it or sketching it out briefly so that you can revisit it later.

That covers step one in the Steps of Creative Process. Now let’s look at step two.

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