Questions For Writing, Producing & Creating

QuestionsForLiving interview with Jonathan Blank January 4th, 2012 regarding writing, producing & creating. 

Jonathan's latest book is called "Secrets of Dragon Gate" (published by Penguin). It is about Dragon Gate Taoism and is available from Amazon. He is also the CEO of Reading Kingdom, an online program that teaches children to read and write. For more information about Jonathan check out his website.

QuestionsForLiving: Were there any core questions that initially attracted you to the creative process including writing books, screenplays, and the creation and development of software? If so, what were some of these questions?

Jonathan Blank: That’s a great question. I’ve been involved in many different types of endeavors. But my interest in and involvement with all these activities has been guided by a few core questions:

- Why am I here on this earth?

- What is really meaningful and important?

- What can I do to make the world a better place?

- How can I experience more fun, happiness, and joy?

QFL: Do you have a primary set of questions that you ask for a new creative endeavor whether writing a book, writing a screenplay or designing an online business such as Reading Kingdom? If so, what were some of these questions?

Blank: When I think about starting a new project I will first ask myself:

- Is the project something that really excites me and that I am passionate about?

- Is the project one that I can dedicate myself to for the time it will require to complete it (because I like to finish what I start)?

Assuming the answer to those two questions is yes, I will then begin looking at the project from a more pragmatic perspective. This involves asking questions such as:

- How much money and what kind of skills, tools, relationships and other resources will I require to make the project happen?

- What kind of audience is there for the project?

- What other similar projects have already been done and how is mine different?

- How will the project make money or find a way to become self-sustaining?

- Will this project ultimately be profitable?

This second set of questions allows me to take a number of practical considerations into account before I start – so I go into a project with my eyes open.

QFL: Were there any primary questions that you were asking yourself that started you on your life's journey to study Taoism and Eastern philosophy and martial arts? If so, what were some of these questions?

Blank: When I was a child my favorite TV show was “Kung Fu” which starred David Carradine as a Shaolin monk. Shaolin is the Buddhist monastery in China that is considered the birthplace of both Zen Buddhism and Chinese Kung Fu. I was intrigued by the calm, reserved and peaceful monk who was also completely unafraid and able to take on any opponent. This started me on my spiritual quest that has continued to this day. This “quest” has been marked by a desire to understand the meaning of life and the nature of reality and also to bring health, vitality, internal and external strength and fearlessness into my life.

There is another element to metaphysical practices that I have always found appealing which is their magical qualities. I first became interested in Taoism when, as a boy, I read amazing tales of legendary Taoist immortals who mastered the five elements and achieved superhuman abilities. These “immortals” started their lives as ordinary people, but with diligent practice they transformed themselves into magical beings who existed on a higher plane of consciousness. According to Taoist philosophy, the immortals’ path is available to anyone who wishes to pursue it. Spurred on by the stories, I dreamt of becoming a Taoist immortal too, and so I set out on a course of study that has continued throughout my life. And while I have yet to become an immortal, I’ve found that Taoism’s emphasis on health, vitality and living in harmony with nature makes it a great way to keep my life in balance as well as a powerful way to understand and make the most of reality.

So I guess that is a long way of saying that the question that got me started was ‘Can I achieve some of the amazing things attributed to masters of martial arts and mysticism?’ 

QFL: Given your own experience and spectrum of creative works, what questions would you suggest others ask themselves to increase their own creativity and creative productivity?

Blank: There are of course many paths to creativity. A key element of Taoism is learning to listen to your own body, mind and spirit to gain answers about what is working for you – to follow your excitement and your own bliss. In other words you set up your own feedback loop to help you discover those elements in your life and in your work that are inspiring you and then place more of your time and energy there. Every person is different and has his or her own unique way of looking at the world. The trick is to translate those views into the work you are doing. But if one is looking for some basic questions to ask to spur creativity, I think you can’t go wrong with “How can I make this better?” [“This” refers to whatever you are working on or interested in.]  Now better is a very subjective thing, but the idea is to spur yourself to look for new ways to do things, new modes of expression, and new approaches to problem solving.

There is a chapter in my book “Secrets of Dragon Gate” about Taoist mental practices designed to increase one’s mental capabilities. One of the key methods is to bring novelty into your life. Keep trying new things whether it’s a new food, a new travel destination, a new kind of book subject, a new exercise, or even a new way to drive home. Just stimulate your mind by bringing new information and new modes of perception into your reality. And I think Taoism is very helpful in this regard because embracing change is one of the philosophy’s central tenets. As the founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu wrote, “When I let go of who I am, I become who I might be.”

QFL: Independent of your specific creative works and pursuits, what questions do you believe that people should/could ask themselves to make our world a happier and healthier place?

Blank: All the world’s spiritual philosophies tend to agree that, as Gandhi put it, “We must become the change we want to see in the world.” Essentially this is a way of expressing the idea that we are the authors of our experiences, whether we understand how we are doing this or not – and whether or not reality conforms to our conscious preferences.

Lao Tzu wrote, "Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream."

So my advice would be to ask yourself: "What you can do in your own life to – in whatever small way - make the world a happier and healthier place?"

For more information regarding the Reading Kingdom, please visit:


The Waters of Spirituality Run Deep

Mrs. Leslie Juvin-Acker's picture

This is a beautiful post, not because it has many esoteric ideas for living, but because of how REAL these ideas are in our daily lives.

Jonathan is right, just the tiniest amount of fear can choke the life out of us. It creeps up on us and it keeps us paralyzed, eventually to a point where we are attched to the fear, which is where Jonathan encourages to break through, try new things, open up our consciousness to let in fresh perspectives in like a burst of fresh air.

I agree whole heartedly that the answers to our problems come from within and if we listen to that feedback loop, we can find the answers, trust the truth, and be led into our next highest state of being. It sounds so abstract, but this is very real in how it affects our lives and worlds. 

Thank you for this insight!!


-L.J. Acker

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