Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What If...

This week, I've been listening to legal education lectures to complete the continuing legal education credits I need annually to keep up my bar association membership.  Today I was listening to a really good program on intellectual property law for non-specialists while I was on a longish drive.  And while I was driving and listening, I was struck by how we lawyers have it deeply ingrained in us from the first day of law school to try to anticipate everything that might go wrong, and then work on planning how to avoid that.

It's that sort of cheerfully pessimistic thinking ("But what if the sellers try to back out of the deal? What if the product is defective? What if the person you hire absconds without doing the work?") that makes us lawyers so fun to be around.  We've gotten a lot of education and experience at imagining the bad side of "What if?"  And it's our professional obligation to anticipate those "what if's" and figure out how to avoid them. 

But it struck me today that the "what if" aspect of anticipating all of the things that could go wrong is not very far from the "what if I try X" creativity that so many quilt artists explore.  For a long time I have loved and followed Jude Hill's "What If" blog, where she explores some question with a bit of stitchy exploration.  It's probably the seed of creativity for a lot of ideas, wondering what would happen if we mixed those paints or combined those fabrics or tried to depict that image in fabric.

It is a more positive approach than the "what if the worst happens" that we lawyers go to automatically -- but I like to think that my "what if" training is helping me on the creative side, too.

* Photo: Neighbor cat bravely illustrating "What if I stick my paw into this hole?"


  1. As a fellow lawyer with that ingrained mentality all I can say is that 'what if' is a good question. When you habitually ask 'what when...' (i.e assuming that everything will go wrong) you need to reprogramme and take a step back from that negative crisis thinking.

  2. As a psychotherapist, retired, I always ask "What if" but it is followed by "you started doing it this way instead." I have been able to take that mindset into my quilting and it continues to allow me to be creative and try new things. Isn't it great that the things we learn in our careers can be so useful in our art?