Monday, August 27, 2007

P.S. Let me expand on that...

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the curiosita section of How to Think Like Leonardo daVinci. Here's more on the "100 questions exercise" from that chapter, in case you feel like playing around today.

Here's what to do:

Make a list of 100 questions. They can be about anything, large or small, personal or universal. Do this as if you were free-writing. (Or pretend you're a two-year old, riffing as only they can, on the themes of WHY? and HOW COME?)

Set the list aside; then, come back to it and choose ten of the questions for further thought.

Set the list of ten aside; then, come back again, and choose one of them---whichever one is poking you in the arm, or yanking at your shorts. (I once saw a poor mom whose arms were busy holding an infant get her shorts tugged down in a grocery store by her toddler.)

Now here's the tricky part: Once you have the one question you're going to deal with, don't answer it! Don't even try. Instead, re-frame the question. See how many different ways you can ask it.

Here's an example:

ORIGINAL QUESTION: Why is the universe so immense?

QUESTION RE-FRAMED: Is the universe as immense as I think it is? Why is the universe so much larger than I am? Are there others for whom the universe is not so immense? When will the universe stop being so immense? Why can't it be small? Does it have something to do with time? Does everyone who figures out the secret linking the immenseness of the universe to time die at that moment? (Ooooh, I sense a plot in that last one...)

I offer this exercise to you because I think that at the heart of every great story is a great question. What would it be like if...? Who would help me if... Where did he find...? Why is she so...? When did they start...? How come you never see...?

So, 100 questions! Surely that's not too much to ask.


  1. You've had kids haven't you? I know I have them. The questions are never-ending which leads our inspiration directly. Thanks for the thought provoking prompt!!

  2. Oh, yes, Amy...I have two kids, and between them, they've asked a million questions! But I agree: they are a source of inspiration. Always.

  3. "Does everyone who figures out the secret linking the immenseness of the universe to time die at that moment? (Ooooh, I sense a plot in that last one...)"

    I love how one day you could possibly type something at your blog that gives you a book idea, and then one day, years down the road, we'll see a book come out of it. Now wouldn't that be neat?

    Love this idea. If I find time with my two children to do this (as in, if I break away from them long enough to do this), I shall.

  4. If you do try it, you'll have to get back to me on how it goes. I found that the best way to do it is to just keep going, no matter how silly the questions get. My own list was a complete mix of the profound and the ridiculous.

    And yes, it would be cool if a blog post turned into a book! It's happened to ideas and phrases from my journal, although it usually takes years. I tried to index my journals once, but I gave up after tagging about 300 entries with little stickies.

  5. That mom you saw having her shorts pulled down could well have been me. My daughter's trick was usually to pull my skirts UP.

  6. Mary, I thought about running over to help her, but either option---taking the infant out of her arms or unlatching the toddler from her leg---seemed guaranteed to produce large amounts of screaming that would draw attention to her. She managed to shift the baby around and get herself decent. The skills they expect us moms to have these days! :)


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