Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Curiosity over Passion?

New work born of  pure curiosity. . . could I design a "library-tower" that actually features ledgers/books  as part of the design on the OUTSIDE?

Curiosity over Passion?

Recently, while listening to the audio book of "Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear" by  Elizabeth Gilbert, I was struck by several things. One was her no-nonsense sort of approach to creativity. It reminded me quite a bit of my own mother, but more supportive in a creativity sense. Loving and spot on but definitely a bit brusque and harsh. Even outright stern at times. Her views on creativity and making a life out of it are not a sugary sweet approach at all. No excuses. No hand-holding. Definitely not every one's cup of tea.

But it may be the most inspired book on creativity I have "read". And I usually ONLY read but, since it was read by the author, I felt it would be worth hearing it in her voice. 

One of my favorite offerings that she expressed was that she would rather see people "follow their curiosity over their passion". This is a subject, I now know, she has spoken of frequently before and after the book's release so I won't quote her beyond the following because she has so many wonderful views out there on the subject. 

"Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, "Hey, that's kind of interesting…"
Passion is rare; curiosity is everyday.
The trick is to just follow your small moments of curiosity. It doesn't take a massive effort. Just turn your head an inch. Pause for a instant. Respond to what has caught your attention. Look into it a bit. Is there something there for you? A piece of information?
For me, a lifetime devoted to creativity is nothing but a scavenger hunt — where each successive clue is another tiny little hit of curiosity. Pick each one up, unfold it, see where it leads you next.
Small steps.
Keep doing that, and I promise you: The curiosity will eventually lead you to the passion."

I want to tell you why it was such an epiphany for me to hear someone say it, in their own words, and to almost denounce passion versus curiosity as what creative minded people should focus on pursuing. 

In my life, I could list the number of passions that have consumed my waking, creative and dreaming hours for periods of time. Writing music, multimedia performance shows, recording engineer, golf, bowling, digital art, poetry. . . as well as my jobs as a chef, pastry chef, coffeehouse owner etc etc etc. The list really does goes on. 

And, as far as passion went, each of them was a hot burning pursuit for anywhere from a few months to four or five years in my world. Longer when it came to the actual jobs I held. 

While I could easily list the reasons and circumstances under which most of them, as passions, fell away in my life, I could not have seen that there might be a common thread there until hearing Ms. Gilbert speak about following curiosity over passion. 

You see, each of those passions of mine began with a simple, almost benign curiosity. How is music written? Can I learn to play guitar, harp, bass, piano, percussion? Can I get a job in a restaurant kitchen? Can I learn French cuisine, Italian cuisine, Japanese cuisine. How good can I be at golf or bowling or ice hockey or softball. (all childhood recreational loves that resurfaced in my 20's)  Can I write/produce a multimedia show or make music for dance companies? 

Curiosity is always the gateway to passion for me it would seem. But what happens when passion loses curiosity as it's bedfellow? 

In each of the previously mentioned pursuits, there came a time when curiosity fell away or was satisfied. . . and passion no longer was enough. I've NEVER shared this story in my life but I took up bowling again in my mid 20's because, as a child, my mother would take me once a month to our local bowling alley and let me bowl a few games. Of course, in her way, she was both loving and overly critical all at once. I recall how often, after a gutter ball, she would say "If you're going to bowl like that we might as well go home right now. . . you can do better!" She never yelled really. . . she just had zero patience. She's still that way. It never bothered me then because I just loved the environment of the alley and the total/score was really secondary. The smells and noise and the weirdly wonderful repetition. 
10 wooden pins. 
One ball. 

But, I will say that, as a young adult, those memories flooded back and I wondered if I could be good at bowling as an adult. I was simply curious. And when in two years I had become good enough to bowl in the state tournaments and in the highest ratedleague in our local alley, the curiosity started to fall away.

I was good. Very good. But I knew that I did not want to put in the time or effort to be more than that.  Mostly, I was not the slight bit curious IF I could be! And I would say that right up to that point I was passionate about it. And then, suddenly, without the curiosity driving it, it went away.  

And this, I believe, is why making the things I do now: the fairy houses and statues of deities of the ancient world. Little elves and creatures from my own imagination. THIS passion was not only born of, but is constantly fueled by, my endless curiosity about these things. . . and the curiosity of my own inner world from childhood. 

Ancient myths and civilizations. Fairy tales. Childhood imagination, wonder and nostalgia. Dreams and 
day dreams. Telling stories and making up entire worlds, drawing maps, imagining possibilities. . . these are the things that are as rife with my own curiosity now as the were when I was a child. . . or a teen. . . or a young adult. . . even when I was in my lowest places, searching for something I could find meaning and, yes, passion in. These were ALWAYS there. And I was always curious about them in one way or another. 

If you could look within my heart, you'd find that thread running from childhood drawings to library reading lists to TV shows and movies to stories written and ideas stuffed in drawers and lost to time. 

These worlds I create were always present. 

And I do feel passionate about my work most every moment of every day. But what keeps that fire burning hot is the constant fuel of curiosity. New ideas. Can I? Will I be able to? Would anyone buy this? How is this made? 

It seems an endless source of inspiration.

I'll follow it wherever it leads, knowing that curiosity is always in the drivers seat and passion never far behind!

Have a wonderfully creative and CURIOUS day!



  1. Nicolas, what a wonderful post! I never thought of curiosity over passion. Very interesting. You got me thinking! I love your Fairy tower!

    1. I am so glad you liked it! I never thought of it that way either but when I first heard it, it was like a bell ringing in my head. lol Thank you for dropping by!

  2. Your comments on my blog always make me smile.... I had stopped by and read this post yesterday and hadn't commented yet because i had to think about it. I still not sure if curiosity is the main thing that fuels me, although i do now want to to read that book. With me passion and curiosity are both there, but what i create or the constant choice of which idea to work on seems to be simply what needs to be spilled out the most. What idea can i not contain anymore so MUST work on next.
    Plus i wanted to say i agree with your choice to mostly NOT listen to books, reading is so much better, and even though i have so enjoyed listening to books for months, i would prefer to read. And i even frown on multitasking in general but something about quilting and listening this past year was something i couldn't resist. They seemed to go hand in hand, i didn't want one without the other.

    1. The curiosity over/with passion. . . when you FIRST have an idea, is it curiosity that nudges you? I mean, do all of your ideas/goals fall into categories of creative skills you are already passionate about or do they arise out of "Hmm. . . I wonder" moments? It's an idea that really made me stop and think. . . as did many of the topics in the book. But I can't say I was ever passionate about anything before I was curious about it in some small way. : )

      It's an interesting exploration for sure! But yes, for myself as well, which idea I work on in the moment is more about what I feel is pressing internally too.

      And it's funny, I love podcasts. . . listen t them all the time while making things. . . but novels I usually just feel I want to give them my full, silent, attention. :)