The Sci-Fi Channel had station identification spots for a long time that started with a normal, mundane scene that quickly changed into something fantastical and impossible. The wordsWhat if? appeared on the screen, and then shifted to the Sci-Fi logo. It made a point in an amusing and creative way.
Science fiction (and speculative fiction) has long run on that question. What if? What if in the future we all drive hovercrafts that fold up neatly into briefcases? What if we find ourselves citizens of a large government body comprised of various worlds and races? What if we destroy the world and then have to figure out how to survive? What if various illnesses were wiped out? I actually think it’s why I’ve always gravitated toward science fiction. I’ve loved the possibilities of what could be, and the accepting of imaginative explorations.
What if? is one of the best ways to loosen up your creative juices because it gives you a chance to think about other ways something can happen. It’s one of my favorite ways to shake loose a problem that isn’t resolving quickly.
The other great question for beating problems and getting the creativity flowing is Why not? This is a great one to throw out the next time someone tells you that something can’t be done. Just ask them, “Why not?” and watch their faces turn interesting shades of red and purple before they give you some incomprehensible answer that sounds suspiciously like, “It’s never been done before.””
While I think science fiction is driven by What if?, I think fantasy (my other favorite genre) is driven by Why not?. Why can’t there be a place hidden in London where children can learn to use magic? Why can’t there be oversized flying lizards? Why can’t a human transform into an animal and back again?
What if? Why not? When you find your creativity stagnating, just start asking yourself one of these two questions and see where it takes you.