Three (and a half) Ways to Spark your Creative Curiosity

 Don't wait around for passion to show up, follow your curiosity instead

The next time someone tells you to just 'follow your passion,' you can just tell them to "go whistle."

Or another directive of your choosing. We're all adults here. 

The thing is, true passion comes with time. There's no getting around it. It’s mastery that comes with deep, focused practice, often against odds. Passion is a long-term relationship, not something you discover by swiping right.

And, as Liz Gilbert points out in Big Magic, under those conditions, passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach.

Curiosity, on the other hand, is more of an instant gratification. Unless you're a cat, following your curiosity is a more accessible way of indulging some of our more out-there ideas without taking a big gamble on them. 

Tapping into curiosity requires little more than opening your eyes, more deliberately plugging into your surroundings. Think of it as a kind of mindfulness practice that you don't have to sit still for. 

So if you're feeling a little creatively blah, or your thinking is a bit muddled, here are a few simple sparks that could light up a new path forward. 

Think like a tourist

Try exploring a territory, whether literal (i.e. your city) or figurative (your subject matter) with fresh eyes. Visit the can’t-miss attractions. Stumble down side streets, get a little lost- that’s how you discover the hidden gems. Overwrought metaphor aside, make exploration a deliberate practice, as you would if you were visiting a new place.


The 5 Whys

Embrace your inner pest, and try this not-very-technical technique for interrogating the root cause of any problem. It pretty much does what it says on the tin: ask a question, get an answer, and ask, ‘Why?’ Get another answer, ask why again. Rinse and repeat five times, or keep going until you hit the core, or it becomes supremely annoying. Up to you. But seriously, it works.


Cultivating Serendipity

I know it seems kind of, um…contradictory to suggest that it’s possible to “get good at being lucky,” as David Kelley quips in Creative Confidence. But in fact, you can train yourself to maximize your creative alertness. One way is to give yourself over to moments of relaxed attention, letting your thoughts meander, creating a kind of real time mind map. I like to think of these moments as a form of meditation wherein my absorption in a simple, routine task allows my mind to open- much like when a stroke of brilliance occurs in the shower. Those soft moments between sleep and wakefulness–what is known as the hypnagogic state–are prime for creative musing. It’s no coincidence that activities like the “5-Minute Journal” are recommended as bookends to our day. 

For a more active approach, you can also do what author Steven Johnson does:
keep a ‘spark file,’ which is simply an ongoing, chronological document capturing hunches, snippets, and notes of all manners as they arise. Cloud-based apps like Google Docs or Evernote are useful here because you can access them wherever you go. Then, perhaps once a quarter, or maybe once a month, book a block of time to go through all your notes, highlighting what catches your eye. It’s like, as Johnson says, “brainstorming with a past version of yourself.

What have you been curious about lately? What did you do about it? What did you learn? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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