Curiosity First – Passion Second

One llama, two pigs and eight dragonflies, in various stages of completion. My style of discipline is a patchwork of activity interspersed with pensive stillness… with various other projects thrown into the mix.

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The creative journey demands much candor toward self. We “artists” – if I may inject myself within this classification – are supposed to be of one of two temperaments: Madly passionate or colorfully troubled. Either way, the ideal artist is driven to produce his or her art. There is an urgency to it, and with urgency comes a notion of speed. The work must be completed as though every step were presented to us on a conveyor belt for perfect, prompt and yes, mad assembly.

I expected to learn much about the market as I endeavor to give new life to my artistic expression, and I have, but what I have learned most of all is to honor my own pace. Fighting it does not work.

Someone who knew I took time off for this purpose cautioned that I could not make a living at it. First, a note to self: Stay away from those who delight in pointing out obstacles. Second, I am not looking for fame and fortune; I am merely making room for self-expression. The outcome will take care of itself. And I can take care of myself, thank you very much.

A good friend gave me a great gift this past Christmas: Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her insight into the creative life is deeply empowering. In one short, yet poignant chapter, she makes a strong point in favor of curiosity as the driving force of creativity, not passion.

Artists are believed to act out of passion. Blocked artists seek (often in vain) to re-ignite their passion. Meandering souls are advised to find their passion. You can’t find a passion, or even re-ignite one for that matter. It finds you; and it may not even look the same from one stage of life to another or from one month to another. It is curiosity that ignites passion, in its own time.

I am only beginning to grasp this, but reaching back into my experience I can see exactly how it works. Every single item I have created exists because I imagined it and became curious about what it would feel like to give it life. It is the insatiable curiosity of seeing a mentally pictured object materialize in my hands that has fueled my actions, not passion.

Waiting for passion to ignite productivity is another way of saying “Putting off until tomorrow what we could do today.” It may very well be the most potent recipe for procrastination… and loss of passion. Curiosity is another beast; a powerfully gentle beast. There is no need to wait for it or even hope for it. All I need to do is ask.

Gilbert suggests one simple question: “Is there anything you’re interested in right now?” 

Every time I have asked this question (accidentally, I confess), it has put me right back on track with my creative work. Even if my interest of the moment was a book, or rearranging my workbench, or going for a ride; it set the mood for creative vision and freedom. Every time… in its own time. An I know now that even if a project sits mid-way to completion for a couple of days, it is still in progress. In its own perfect time.

I think that grasping and accepting this alone is one of the greatest struggles of creative people. We try to adopt an “industrialized world model” of productivity and success to a process that is as timeless and fluent and free as a small, innocent sapling slowly reaching for the sun. Force it to grow and it is no longer purely itself. Force it to grow and it may be alive, but it has no life.

Huh! Perhaps genetically modified  plants are a metaphor for all the ways in which we force ourselves into being what we are not.


Amazon book link provided for your convenience. I am not an affiliate. However, I do recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, wholeheartedly.




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