Weekend Edition – The Genius of Curiosity Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

The Genius of Curiosity

pin curious whitmanLast 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:

pin perfect timeNothing at the moment, but …

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:

book princess brideSpeaking 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:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin munro curiosity

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.

49 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – The Genius of Curiosity Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Jamie, thank you for writing these weekend editions. The video gave me hope. I’m in late Part Three of my WIP and am suffering the ‘why did I ever start this?’ So, I needed the pat on the back and not worry, too much, that I’m not burning to finish this anymore. Silent

    • Thank you for coming by. I saw on your blog that you are in the midst of a very large project. I’m sending you perseverance and resolution along with a mischievous wish for a little playfulness. Good luck and know that you don’t need to burn. Simmering makes the best soup. 😉

  2. Oh “The Princess Bride” is one of my all-time favorite books! So much fun!

    I’ve pondered the passion question on my blog before, too. I like this distinction between passion and curiosity–I think curiosity can have a more rational drive behind it than the emotional engine of “passion,” and I can see how that would be a more productive force. I’ll definitely check out the Gilbert clip!

    • Happy to have another Princess Bride fan in the house! 🙂

      I agree – curiosity seems “saner.” Passion is perhaps more impulsive … though, maybe that’s a good thing? I like the idea of mixing them up.

  3. Reblogged this on No More Can't and commented:
    This blog has so much great information. I was actually kind of giddy reading it and yes, I feel a little silly telling you that. There are some great blogging tips and some great living your life tips.

    • Giddy? That’s awesome. TKS for the reblog, and the awesome photo of the hedgehog doing the grocery shopping. 😉

  4. Great post! I had never thought about curiosity vs. passion in this context before, but you’re exactly right. It’s fulfilling to explore, try new things, and explore different ways of looking at the world. Allowing passion to consume you can really limit this.

    • Exactly. If we’re all caught up in a singular passion, there’s no knowing what we’ll miss simply because we aren’t open to seeing it!

      TKS for coming by!

  5. I absolutely agree with you on the fact that “there is no perfect time” for anything. I think that what we all have forgot throughout the years, through the education we get and the rules that society puts upon us, that we have to follow our gut feeling. Our instinct. And just do it, say yes to something that at first impression, feels good. And even if on second thought you’re thinking, oh jeez, what have I got myself into now… I don’t have time for this… just follow it through, one day at a time. And in the end, you’ll have accomplished something you never thought you would.

    • “What have I got myself into now?” is definitely a question I’ve asked myself more than once. 😉

      But I love the outcome you predict – “you’ll have accomplished something you never thought you would.” That’s SO true. Each time I’ve jumped without really thinking, it has always resulted in an exciting new learning experience and/or accomplishment.

      So – here’s to jumping even when that seems like the crazy thing to do.

  6. Reblogged this on zenitymom and commented:
    If you’re like me, juggling between the job you “have” to do, to earn money, and the growing love to writing, then you should absolutely read this post.
    Two things particularly caught my mind. First of all, the passion versus curiosity part. This is EXACTLY what I have always been wondering about. How do people manage to be so passionate about anything? I’m more the kind of “Oh yes, this is going to be THE new hobby!” I’ll dive into something, absolutely frenetic about it, then a couple of weeks later, I’ll think “ah well, that was nice, but… let’s go over to something new.” In the meantime, I’ll have stocked up heaps of projects for that passion. Be it sewing, knitting, crocheting, gardening, cooking, or themes like detox, ab training sessions… you see, it is veeeery varied. And I’ll make plans for it. Schemes, excel tables as to how to do to manage to finish the projects by some given deadline.
    The problem with this is that I’m driving myself crazy. I’ll then be feeling guilty for not doing what I am supposed to be doing to be good on my working timeline. And this for absolutely unimportant things, basically. But it makes me feel like I’m failing all the time. Failing my self-imposed targets and failing to be perfect in every domain I chose to be.
    So the concept of “there is no perfect time” or, which mostly works for me “say yes, and think about how to achieve it later”, is the best concept to live by. I love making strategies, but honestly, they never bring me anywhere.
    The only thing that has always lead to unexpected success for me was just going for the impossible, follow some deep inner gut feeling, and steer towards it. No thinking. No planning.
    I started my blog a year ago, almost exactly to the date. I wrote for a couple of weeks, probably made some excel chart for the writing timeline as well, and then, well, life happened. And it was a heavy year that followed with difficult periods in the life of a family. I did though manage to get on a little bit with writing my novel, but I caught myself so very often thinking about what the hell I thought I would accomplish. I’ll never send in any novel. I’ll never get published. I’ll always have to do my job till the rest of my life. And that means for still many many years.
    But then, one day last month, I was overcome by a longing to share my thoughts. Not with friends or family, but with some people out there, I don’t know, and probably never will know. And I started to write again. No matter how stupid it may seem to write again after a year of silence. I just had to follow this longing to share my ideas, my thoughts, my motivations.
    And honestly, it has done me great good! It has made me feel so much lighter these last two weeks, you just can’t imagine. And although I was tempted to start an excel sheet, to plan towards something, I didn’t. I just write. Sometimes a couple of times a day. Some days I don’t. I just follow my instinct and go on with it.
    And it feels great!

    • That’s a great question, Beth. I’m still thinking on it myself. I have a feeling that you can have a certain kind of passion … not the zealot kind (with which the rest of the world is almost blocked out by that one, overwhelming desire/focus) … but something that is focused and committed without being exclusionary. Interesting to think about, anyway.

      Enjoy the blog posts!

  7. Hi Ms. Wallace. I was about to message you on Facebook to introduce myself but I thought that it may be too forward. My intent is to find out some good advice, tips, etc on blogging. I agree with the curiosity outlook but also disagree. I disagree only due to a very personal issue with never finding my own passion. I feel as though that I’ve become overwhelmingly mediocre to useless at many things. Currently I am researching the world of blogging and wonder if this is one platform that I may be good at and with that what could I do with it and where can I take it. I did see the handful of links at the end of the post but is there any one you might recommend with the very little information I just gave you?Thanks in advance. Vinni Chiocchi

      • For blogs that are solely about blogging, I recommend ProBlogger (http://www.problogger.net/) and also Dan Blank’s “We Grow Media” blog which is not exclusively about blogging, but does include some great info as well as fabulous posts on writing and publishing: http://wegrowmedia.com/

        I would also recommend that you find blogs that you really enjoy (they don’t have to be about blogging or writing) and just spend some time paying attention to what you like about them. Is it their style, design, publishing frequency, writer’s voice, post format? Studying the leading bloggers will provide you with a wealth of information about what really works.

        Good luck!

    • Thanks.
      Not sure of the context for the copyright question, but I believe that in most cases, once you publish something it is covered by basic copyright laws. At any rate, we do not ask or recommend that comments be copyrighted.
      Hope that helps!

    • Thanks, Linda. I’ve definitely been feeling close to burn out lately. I’d love a little simmering for a change! 😉

  8. Thank you Jamie for the weekend edition. I love the idea of being led by curiosity and creativity. Passion at times creates the worry of perfection and expectations whereas curiosity does not have a distinguished end result. Thank you for giving me that gift today; I can only hope that I work more toward curiosity and creativity and live with fun in my heart.

    • What a great point! Passion drives towards a specific outcome while curiosity is more experimental. There is no right or wrong, per se, it’s just an exploration … a chance to answer the questions “what if?” without any preconceived notions of what might happen. Fabulous! Thanks for the addition.

  9. I’ve been told by a lot of older people (30+) while growing up that I shouldn’t pursue anything creative unless I have passion for it, that curiosity is not enough and/or is a lesser form of the ultimate trait ‘Passion’ because curiosity always moves on.

    So, I agree there’s an unbalanced focus on an arbitrary concept of ‘passion’ as how one should feel towards their day-to-day work. The stance of ‘passion trumps curiosity’ is a common attitude from people born in the 60-80s period; exactly what Gilbert is talking about. Your post provides departure from this, but still remains in dualistic tones by flipping it to ‘curiosity trumps passion’.

    I don’t think either trumps each other, but that they both interact with one another and influence the actualization of a work.

    Passionate curiosity seems to be where ‘it’ is at.

    Remaining flexible and being aware that actual embodied life is rarely based on one single meant-to-be trait/activity/etc. helps temper myths about passion.

    Passion, itself, can be extremely inspiring to others though. A lot of people highly respect a passionate artist; because every human is naturally curious to an extent, the likelihood of automatic respect for neutral curiosity is lessened. Curiosity isn’t seen as anything different or especially unique, while passion is.

    I don’t think it is easy for many people to sustain passionate attitudes for their entire life, thus why we might respect and/or focus on those artists/writers who have been able to do so (or at least, present the appearance that they have). Thought-provoking post, thanks for sharing.

    • First, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Second, I think that sometimes the best situation is when our curiosity evolves, through experience, into passion. I suppose it wouldn’t be unlike the idea of being friends with someone before you fall in love with them. Unlike the “passionate” love-at-first-sight (or, As Gilbert put it less delicately, “one-night stand”), a passion that comes from following your curiosity perhaps grows stronger over time and so has a more stable foundation in order to achieve that sustained passion you talked about.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  10. Yes, I agree! I don’t have a grand passion, and I don’t feel poorer for it. Passion is exclusive – everything comes second to it. I am curious though…and my curiosity enlivens my days. Imagine bring married to someone with a grand passion – Darwin for instance. Omg how awful 🙂

    • Exactly, Sara. I think that truly passionate people are often unfit for human relationships. Perhaps that’s why so many “great” artists and other pioneers in the sciences had such lack in their personal and social lives. A passion consumes the person, leaving little room for anything (or anyone) else. Though on some levels, it is romantic; on others it is lonely.

      Nice to “see” you! 🙂

      • The world needs those people for sure – but it’s not easy to be them or their family, and not something to be envied. A gift and a burden…nice to chat with you too, Jamie 🙂

  11. Passion drives greatness but does not equate with happiness. Doing what you love, however, might very well involve allowing yourself to pursue whatever happens to interest you, whether it takes ten minutes or ten years. Doing what you love, for me, simply means pursuing what makes you happy, regardless of what others or society would impose on you. I realize that we all have to do things we don’t like to do from time to time, but I have never understood people continuing to do what they hate to do. –Curt

    • Another excellent point: curiosity does not need to be fleeting. A person might remain curious about a topic for a lifetime – always asking questions and exploring. Thanks for that reminder, Curt.

      I also don’t understand why we so often allow ourselves to be shackled for years to tasks we don’t enjoy. Sure, each of us has responsibilities, but why do we allow ourselves to be held hostage by a life we don’t love? It’s easier said than done to cut ties with the imagined security of the devil we know, but I’ve never regretted following my intuition (or my curiosity!) in order to try something new.

      Here’s to doing the things that make us happy!

  12. Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,

    you make me proud. So glad to hear that you are finally reading “the Bride.” It is, hands down, the book that changed how I viewed writing. Just came across my first edition copy of it the other day, might be time for *another* re-reading.

    Carry on doing the good work,


    • 🙂 And you make me smile, Wendy. I can see now why “the Bride” inspires you the way it does. It is such a joy to read and opens up a world of possibilities heretofore not considered.

      Enjoy your next reread … whenever that takes place. And thank you for your unceasing championing of this book. Without your persistent and passionate mentions, I might have missed out on this little treasure.

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  14. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Fear of Self-Indulgence Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads | Live to Write - Write to Live

  15. love it! i recently listened to that interview with liz gilbert and it really shifted the way i view passion. i’ve felt that pressure to find that ‘one true passion’, but the search as basically drained and discouraged me. too many things i’m interested in! so now, for me it’s all about curiosity! thanks, aleya

    • I have always felt that pressure, too, Aleya. It was an epiphany to hear Gilbert talk about curiosity as an alternative way of looking at passion. Made me very happy. 🙂

      Thanks for coming by!

  16. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Finding the Place Where Your Writing Gets Interesting | Live to Write – Write to Live

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