New York City Skyline from Bridge

Creativity Tip: The Power of “What if…”


Every life contains pivot points. These arrive in different ways, some that involve choice and others that do not. I’m interested in the moments when we stand at the crossroads and wonder “what if…” William and Mary or Ohio State? Suitor A or suitor B? Tell the lie or tell the truth? Move back to Ohio or move to Colorado? Full-time work in New York City or join the Peace Corps?

“O God! that one might read the book of fate.” – William Shakespeare (King Henry IV, Part II)

When faced with the choice of NYC or the Peace Corps, I chose the Peace Corps. It’s a decision I’m proud of and an experience that I hold dear. That said, every time I visit New York, I wonder… What if I had chosen NYC instead? How would it have shaped me? Would I still live there? Would I be an artist? A teacher? A wife? A mother? Would I still love the vibe, or would it have worn me down? 

New York City Bagels
One thing’s for sure – I would have eaten a lot more bagels.

I was in the city last week for business. These questions came up for me again as a kind of fun game while waiting in the security line of La Guardia airport. I was happily daydreaming when the questions changed. I asked myself: What would my art look like right now if I’d spent the last 16 years living in New York? How would life in the city inform my art? BAM! I moved from whimsical imagining to a high-impact wondering.  

New York City Skyline from Bridge
The NYC skyline always gives me a thrill!


  • Grab a notebook.
  • Make a list of memorable crossroad decisions.
  • Choose one and ask yourself how your art would change if you had taken the other path.
  • Treat this as a free-writing exercise – let your imagination fly! Write for at least 10 minutes. 

In working with this idea, I discovered that 16-years-in-New-York-City Melinda creates images of the divine feminine with clearer shadow selves – the paintings are somehow more knowing and edgy. The Goddesses are a bit rougher around the edges and somehow prouder for it. I’m enjoying sketching these new ideas; I look forward to seeing where it goes.

I hope you enjoy this exercise and that it helps to shake your Muse up and generate new ideas. I’d love to hear how the exercise works for you. If you’re reading this via e-mail, click here to leave a comment over on the blog. If you’re reading this on the blog, just scroll down to start the conversation!

In joy,

Melinda Eliza


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