Passion vs. Curiosity
There’s a lot of buzz right now about Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, and for good reason. It’s an interesting book about inspiration and living a creative life, beyond fear, and she has several somewhat unconventional ideas about creativity and our pursuit of it. One of my favorites is the idea of Passion vs. Curiosity.
She invites us to forget about passion, in the way people are told to just go follow their passion and everything will turn out fine. She thinks this is unhelpful as “passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times.” I agree with her. It always frustrates me when surveys or self-help books so simply question “What is my passion?”. How I feel when I read that question is not unlike how I felt when the school counselor asked me in the 10th grade, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” The word “passion” has been defined as “a strong and barely controllable emotion”. That’s pretty big. I’ve always felt very deeply about a lot of things in my life, but not being able to classify them as passions has led me to think that my feelings, desires or interests must not be strong enough. I must either not have a passion, or I haven’t unearthed it yet. Either way feels like a fail. Evidently, I was supposed to have this figured out by the 10th grade.
In Big Magic it’s suggested that instead of worrying about our passion, we follow our curiosities. Curiosity simply asks is there anything you’re interested in, no matter how mundane or small. The answer just has to capture your attention for a moment. Each answer is a clue. Follow that clue. Trust it. See where curiosity will lead you next. Follow the next clue, and the next and the next. It just might ultimately lead to a passion.
For me, looking back, I was long curious about art and painting. Right now I could write a generous list of things I’m curious about—minimalism; sunlight and shadow; how plants communicate with each other; something handmade; an Andrew Wyeth painting; the energy of a thunderstorm coming in; cycles of nature; bagpipes; chipping paint on an antique table painted over ten times; harmony; synchronicity; a perfect plate of mole enchiladas, etc. I can see where all of these contribute to what I currently paint about, but maybe they will lead me to something new.
Curiosity is like a little treasure hunt for our soul. It can lead to just getting to know ourselves better, or it could lead to something bigger. We just have to follow the clues.
What are you curious about? I would love it if you would share as your curiosity might spark someone else’s.