Tag Archives: passion

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.




Falling into place

I thought I should check in, just to make it clear that I have not abandoned this blog, our my creative ventures.

The last couple of weeks have been busy, and as time goes by I discover an ongoing pattern in my story. Work shows up that is suited to my skills and interests. It is as though I walk through a door just when there is a need. This is fortunate, of course, and I am grateful. It is a persistent scenario, also, and I have stopped believing in coincidence.

So what fell on my lap this time was the maintenance of the website for Brown & Jenkins Trading Company, the Cambridge Coffee Roaster for which I was initially hired for a bit of Facebook marketing.

Here I go again, jumping in head first, realizing in the middle of one evening after another that I still have my eyes glued to the screen and that I am taking my assignment to heart as a natural extension of myself. The word serenity comes to mind. My work becomes an act of meditation.

When I think of this, it is beyond me that no one has figured out that this may be exactly what we must encourage in school; this passion for the fulfillment of a skill or interest. There are schools that focus on this, but they are rare. General knowledge is important, of course. In fact, it is very important, because it opens our minds. But where is knowledge of self in this?

Then again, perhaps knowledge of self can unfold only in the course of living. You can’t graduate from school and know who you are and what you will contribute to the world; at least not completely. You don’t really come out of school and enter the job market either. That is an old model, perhaps from back when masters had apprentices. Education is not really an apprenticeship; but life is. In fact, life is the most difficult apprenticeship there is, because the teacher is whispering, the task is unclear and the tools are scattered. We pick up our tools as we go.

Perhaps the biggest error is not how we approach education, but what we expect from it.

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Lately, I think mass media truly do not help with this. Fame and recognition have become measures of self-worth. I think about this sometimes when I contemplate the simple artwork I create. I may never be on the news and does it matter? I may never make a piece of such significance that it leaves its mark in history in any major way, and does it really matter?

We implore, “buy local,” yet we value glamor. There is nothing local about glamor. We forget the significance of our microcosm; how one small painting offered as a gift can change a life; how one simple sculpture placed on a shelf can turn depression into hope for one person. It is impossible to create without a ripple effect.

The artist is not the stone, however. This occurs to me just now. The artist is not the source of the ripples. Anything we do is never the actual source of the ripples. It cannot be, for we ourselves stand in the ripples of our own work, of our own doing.

This is what we do not learn in school, and perhaps we must indeed learn it in life: Glory is not in recognition. Glory is in allowing our story to fall into place. Learning to do this is the greatest lesson.

Emily Dickinson said it best…

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Pictured above, a few bracelets. A reminder to myself that I am continually weaving something.