The Genius of Curiosity
Last week I started a conversation about whether you should Do what you love. Or, not. Live to Write – Write to Live community members shared some insightful thoughts and keen observations in the comments. This week, I came across a video clip of author Elizabeth Gilbert speaking out against “passion.” She begins her short speech by admitting that the advice she’s about to give is “really weird.” But, after listening to her, I kind of wanted to stand up and cheer.
Have you ever seen the movie Contact? Jodie Foster plays Dr. Ellie Arroway, a young and passionate woman searching for life on other planets. The film came out in 1997. I was ten years out of high school and working for a global promotions company, helping to manage a thirty-person creative team as they cranked out designs for t-shirts, bag, and tchotchkes to promote everything from m&m candies to Marlboro cigarettes. It was not a job I loved. It was not a personal passion.
Watching Jodie’s portrayal of Dr. Arroway’s unswerving dedication to her mission, I wanted to cry. I felt like there must be something wrong with me that I didn’t feel that kind of passion about anything. Sure, I enjoyed writing and I liked sketching. I loved animals and music and hiking and any number of other things and activities; but I didn’t feel a burning drive to pursue any one goal. I longed to be as fully committed and singularly focused as Ellie Arroway. I wanted passion and purpose.
Seventeen years later, I am finally realizing that Gilbert is right. Curiosity is more valuable than passion. Passion is blinding and consuming. It is biased and stubborn. Passion is exclusionary. Curiosity, on the other hand, is playful and open. Curiosity can learn through discovery. Curiosity expands your world; passion diminishes it, closing in around you like tunnel vision.
My happiest days are the ones with no agenda, no obligation, and the freedom to follow my curiosity. Perhaps I will write, perhaps I will browse a flea market, perhaps I will learn to cook something new. The ability to remain curious is, I believe, one of the secrets to remaining forever young at heart. You cannot be curious and close-minded at the same time. You cannot be curious and bored at the same time. Curiosity is like a self-perpetuating form of energy.
I agree with Gilbert. If you are feeling creatively stumped or stifled, just follow your curiosity. Stop worrying about whether or not you have found The One Thing. Instead, give yourself permission to choose curiosity as your guide to creativity. Do what interests you. Follow your impulses and your intuition. Remember when you were a child – all inquisitive and full of wonder? Be that child again. The world is still full of interesting things.
What I’m Writing:
I just signed up for an 8-week Fiction class with the Grub Street Writers Center. I’m pretty excited. As I mentioned recently, I don’t really have time to take a writing class. My dance card, as they say, is full. I have multiple projects with annoyingly fluid deadlines. Even though my daughter is back in school, I still struggle to get it all done each day. Sometimes, the pell-mell nature of my days leaves me with an odd feeling of having not actually experienced the day. (It’s kind of like when you drive the same route each day and sometimes wind up at your destination with absolutely no recollection of driving there. Scary.)
The thing is, whether it’s today or next week or three months from now or next spring, it will never be The Perfect Time. The stars aren’t going to align and send me a hand-engraved invitation to do the thing I want to do. Committing to your craft is a bit like deciding to have a baby. There is no “right” time. No matter how well you plan, the journey is not going to be what you expected. And once you’ve committed, you’ll just figure it out. Simple as that. It won’t be easy or perfect, but it will be worth it.
So, despite feeling a bit insane for doing it, this morning – in the middle of writing this post – I clicked over and registered for class. Hooray for baby steps. Hooray for throwing caution to the wind. Wish me luck, fellow writers. Wish me luck.
What I’m Reading:
Speaking of childhood wonder, I am finally reading the book that inspired one of my all-time favorite movies, The Princess Bride. Fellow Live to Write – Write to Live blogger, Wendy, is probably reading this with her mouth agape in horror. (Anyone who knows Wendy even a little knows that The Princess Bride is one of her all-time favorite movies AND books.) Wendy, I’m sorry it took me this long. You were SO right!
I have always been a fan of the parenthetical phrase, but The Princess Bride takes the form to new heights. There is something so irresistibly charming about the familiar, conversational voice of the narrators. (There are two – author William Goldman who is, supposedly, abridging the original work of writer S. Morgenstern who shares Goldman’s penchant for copious asides.) It is also delightful, as a fan of the movie, to read so many of the now-famous lines in print. Probably because Goldman also wrote the screenplay, it is almost one hundred percent faithful to the text of the novel.
I have not quite finished the book, but I fully intend to do so over the weekend. A chill has finally arrived in the air and I can think of nothing I’d like to do more than curl up on the sofa under a soft throw, with a mug of hot tea and The Princess Bride.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- 12 Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make on Twitter If You Want More Followers by @jeanetteanzon via @jeffbullas
- Famous Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary via @brainpicker
- Productivity Tips And Running Your Author Business With Jen Talty via @thecreativepenn
- 21 Blog Writing Tips From The Experts via @designwithverve
- 3 things self-published authors should know about their audience by @chrisrobley via @bookbaby
- Do You Know The Secret Sauce That Turns Stories Into Magic? by @storyfix via @writetodone
- Five Ways to Start Living the Life of Your Dreams Today by @RowdyKittens
- Do More in Less Time with Parkinson’s Law via @99u
- Lessons Learned From 3 Years As An Author-Entrepreneur by @thecreativepenn
- 6 Pieces of Writing Advice from First Time Writers Over 40
- Two Words to Define Your Career: Custom and Collaborative by @DanBlank
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to letting your curiosity guide your creativity. Happy reading. Happy writing. See you on the other side.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally – trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.