It’s been proven, time and again, how maintaining a high level of curiosity can boost your creativity. But like creativity, curiosity is a muscle that needs to be trained. We all have varying degrees of natural aptitude when it comes to our level of curiosity. Yet, curiosity is NOT a natural “gift”. It’s a skill, just like painting or playing piano, that requires attentive practice to hone our skill with.
I believe it may be the MOST important creative skill to put time into developing. Curiosity can help drive your creativity far more places than you can currently imagine being possible. Really!
Think about this.
What does it mean to be a curious creative? What does that look like?
A curious creative is that person that seems to be full of original ideas all the time. The person that, while often going on wild tangents, seems to always find a way to figure out unique and amazing solutions to problems you didn’t even know existed. The curious creative is an artist that rarely seems to be “trapped in a box” when it comes to WHAT they create. They smash boundaries and constantly seem to be pushing themselves in new directions. Oh, and they often make it look so effortless and enjoyable.
Sounds pretty amazing right?
So how can we help nurture our own curiosity so we can be more like one of THOSE people?
I’ll be honest, I wish it were as easy as saying there are just 5 steps to curiosity mastery. There’s not. It requires a lot of attention and a lot of being willing to check your ego at the door.
As kids we all have this ability to be all in when something pique’s our interest. We never worried about if it was “cool” or “worth it” to chase down that absurd line of thought. Kids dive right in, begin learning everything they can about whatever has caught their interest, and follow the curiosity until they’ve learned enough that the curiosity is satisfied. But then we get older and “wiser”.
We somehow learn that we can’t continue to have these child-like flights of fancy. Our imagination and our curiosity are conditioned out of us and we instead learn to think critically and logically. Point A has to lead to point B to point C and so on. We get laughed at for suggesting that jumping from point A to point M would be much more fun or interesting.
Not that critical thinking skills and logic are bad, it’s just that we need a healthy balance of curiosity and logic. They balance each other and when balanced work in perfect harmony. Sadly though, logic and “serious” thinking often replace curiosity. That leads us to get stagnant in our thinking, it leads to creative ruts.
The trick is in being able to re-capture that childlike curiosity. There are amazing books written in depth on different approaches to making this happen, but I’ll boil it down to just one or two simple thoughts.
First, you need to be intentional about it. You have to be willing to let your mind jump down the rabbit hole when you notice an interest in something, no matter how strong or faint that interest may seem at first. At it’s core curiosity starts with a combination of information gathering and your imagination. It’s taking that information and combining it with other information, letting yourself explore and imagine what would happen if… But none of that happens unless you follow those interests. You won’t know how interesting a topic or idea is unless you follow it a ways, aren’t you curious to see how amazing it might be?
Second, develop a passion for documenting these rabbit holes. Maybe it’s detailed journals, maybe just tons of simple post it notes with a single word or two. But document it. Once you’ve written it down it lets you rearrange the pieces of the puzzle to play the “I wonder”, the “What If”, or the “What would it look like if” game. Taking bits and pieces of the information and combining it with other unrelated ideas, just to see what happens.
That’s when the magic starts to happen.
But you have to keep working at this. For myself, I like to take time every single day to just spend a little time thinking and practicing curiosity. The nice part is that the more you practice it, the more you’ll find it feeling natural.
And that’s really the goal, to develop a natural curiosity that will feed your creativity and let you thrive.
David (Usually Dave) Szweduik is a photographer, podcaster, and all around geek from the great state of Minnesota and can be found weekly on his podcast Adventures in Creativity. There you’ll find him having conversations fueled by curiosity around the amazing world of all things creativity. If you want even more terrific creativity based content, feel free to join the fun with the Newsletter!