Episode #35: Want to Be a More Creative Writer? Get Curious!
Curiosity can distract us from our work and disrupt our productivity. Curiosity can tempt us to waste time watching Buzzfeed and Upworthy videos, discover our friends’ latest Facebook updates, tag trends on Twitter, and obsessively check weather reports.
But curiosity is a powerful force—an energizing force—that can fuel our creativity if we lasso its power and funnel it in the right direction. Curiosity can lead us new ways of looking at the world, new people who can guide and inspire us. Curiosity can lead us to new books, new blogs, new podcasts, new poems, new ideas. Curiosity sends us in search of answers to questions, and solutions to problems. Curiosity is key to creativity.
This month, I hosted the Play Project, where I encouraged people to engage in playful activities, to add fun to their days. Though I haven’t really linked the two ideas during the PlayProject, play and curiosity are complementary concepts. Curiosity leads us to trying new things, exploring new places, meeting new people, creating something artistic—all playful activities.
See how all three of those go together: play, creativity, and curiosity? Writers who integrate these three things into their lives fill their minds with fresh ideas and images and fuel their creative energy. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, long-form or short, poetry or blog posts, you can lasso curiosity to be a powerful force in your writing life.
Todd Kashdan, author of Curious?, writes, “While intelligence is quite resistant to change, curiosity can be cultivated, and it is available to anyone who desires a fulfilling life” (37).
And Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow, explains:
Each of us is born with two contradictory sets of instructions: a conservative tendency, made up of instincts for self-preservation…and saving energy, and an expansive tendency made up of instincts for exploring, for enjoying novelty and risk. We need both. But whereas the first tendency requires little encouragement, the second can wilt if it is not cultivated. If too few opportunities for curiosity are available, if too many obstacles are placed in the way of risk and exploration, the motivation to engage in creative behavior is easily extinguished. Sustaining high levels of curiosity is the starting point of creativity…the first step toward a more creative life is the cultivation of curiosity and interest, that is, the allocation of attention to things for their own sake.
We need to cultivate this daily. A playful mindset can shake us out of our predictability and increase curiosity in our everyday lives.
Mihaly says, “When there’s nothing specific to do, our thoughts soon return to the most predictable state, which is randomness or confusion. We pay attention and concentrate when we must … But when there is no external force demanding that we concentrate, we lose focus. Our mind falls to the lowest energetic state, where the least amount of effort is required.”
Learning to be more curious helps us focus on our work and our ideas with fresh perspective and increased creativity.
Well, I hope you’re convinced that curiosity is worth developing and practicing.
But how do we get there?
Mihaly has some suggestions. To get more curious:
- try to be surprised by something every day
- try to surprise at least one person everyday
- write down each day what surprised you and how you surprised others
- when something strikes a spark of interest, follow it.
That right there is key to fueling our creativity when we’re working on our writing projects. When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it. It lead you to a new project, it can lead you to a new solution to something you’re stumped with, it can energize you when you’re feeling kind of…in a slump.
Let me leave you with this quote I found at Brain Pickings. It’s from Susan Sontag:
Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.
If you want to be a more creative writer, pay attention, stay eager, and get curious.
Listen for the full podcast.
- Charity Singleton Craig
- On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits to a Writing Life That Lasts
- Tweetspeak Poetry
- Curiosity Journals
- “Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, by Todd Kashdan
- Brain Pickings article with Susan Sontag quote
- The Play Project (see below for more about the #PlayProject)
- All the Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach podcasts since day one
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Sure, you can poke around the Internet for writing prompts and creative writing exercises.
Or you could have one delivered to your inbox every week for a full year (for about the same price as one specialty coffee).