Create Everything with Two Questions

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question. -E.E. Cummings

This might get a little philosophical and abstract. Bear with me (or skip to the end).

Whether you are conscious of it or not, everything you make answers two questions: How and Why. You make everything with a goal in mind (the Why). But you make things in a certain way with certain tools (the How). Often on the subconscious level, we make these Why and How decisions based on what appeals to us and what we know we are capable of creating.

Why is a question of purpose. It doesn't mean you literally ask "Why," necessarily, but rather, it means you establish a purpose and that you remain intentional at every step of the creative process.

"What do we want this video to communicate?" may sound like you're not asking "Why" at all, but don't get confused here; the Why is the intention behind what you create.

"This video communicates the value of a father's role to his kids throughout their lifetimes," answers the Why questions later on in the process as you make How decisions.


Here's the important part. The whole point of asking "Why" is to craft the best answer. The response to any Why question is always "Because (something)." That Because is the reason we ask Why. It provides purpose and direction.

As you think about this, you might realize how circular this process can become. Why questions become Because Answers, which direct the How Questions on which techniques and tools should be used to create something.

Ask Why Before How (And Repeat)

I used to think there was a proper order in which I asked these questions. I figured I should Why first, and then move to the How. However, while the Why always directs the How, the creative process isn't linear- the creative process is circular. As an idea grows, we subtract pieces from it, add other pieces, subtract something else, add another thing, and so on. As this happens, the Why doesn't transform into anything new, necessarily, but it does become more specific.

As I work on a logo for a study on the Holy Spirit, I might take image cues from Scripture and make the logo in an image of fire. Why fire? Because the Bible compares the Holy Spirit to fire many times. That was easy. But I also have to decide the color of the fire, its shape, and how it interacts with the other elements in the logo. I have many more, smaller How questions now that can only be answered by whatever was the answer to my Why question.

It's Really Simple

Don't feel confused by all this process- it all says something very simple. The more intentionality you pour into your work, the stronger it will become. Whenever you make How decisions, it is for a reason. Sometimes that reason is really terrible. The goal is to do everything, to make everything, for a very good reason. That's why we ask Why.

Be intentional. Craft everything, big and small, with a purpose.