Indulge me as I offer up this ridiculously long, but oh so relatable, writerly hashtag:
Does that describe you, too? Good! Then I hope you’ll bear with me as I deviate, yet again, from my “Lessons from Story” series to write about this shiny new post idea all about an effective way to tackle writer’s block.
I’m almost finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. (If you haven’t read it, you must!) I read a few sections last night that, while not explicitly about writer’s block or today’s titular character, indirectly posed an excellent suggestion on how to keep writing when your want-to has fled.
I’m a bit obsessed with Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I had a giant framed picture of the Disney movie’s flower scene over my bed growing up, collected Alice memorabilia like a crazy person, and even have a tattoo on my hip of a larkspur with the words “Curiouser and Curiouser” elegantly curving above and below it.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve related to Alice and her insatiable curiosity. I’ve found that a common trait among writers is in fact this voracious lust for knowledge, for embarking upon inquisitive quests of insight and experience that will broaden our scope as artists and expand our sense of what’s possible.
According to Gilbert, curiosity is a vital weapon for writers to wield. She says “creativity is the truth and the way of creative living.” She calls it the “alpha and the omega.” (You know something’s important when you allude to the apocalyptic Book of Revelation to describe it.)
Why such a big deal about curiosity? Because it’s the vehicle that takes us down rabbit holes, and rabbit holes are what lead us to hookah-smoking caterpillars, mad tea parties, and grinning Cheshire cats.
“Curiosity turns the mundane world into wonderlands.”
Curiosity also turns run-of-the-mill questions into stories.
Gilbert told an inspiring personal story in which, after waiting and waiting for passion to arrive and fill her with motivation to pen her next novel, she chose instead to follow her own curiosity. Curiosity, after all, is something each of us possesses; we need not wait for it to knock on our door and strike us over the head. Even when our passions lie dormant, curiosity is only a question away. To feel it, all we have to do is ask ourselves, “Is there anything I’m interested in?”
Gilbert was interested in gardening. This seemingly trivial curiosity bloomed into a full-blown, beloved hobby. The hobby led her to research all about the flowers she was planting. The research led her around the world, to England, Holland, and French Polynesia to learn all she could about botany. Her travels led her to create an entire fictional world in the novel, The Signature of All Things. And it all sprang forth from one tiny seed of curiosity and her willingness to trust it.
I wrote about writer’s block a few weeks ago and made the assertion that most of the time writer’s block doesn’t come from a lack of ideas or inspiration. It comes from what Steven Pressfield calls Resistance, that nagging fear and debilitating doubt that poisons our psyche by trying to convince us that our writing, our heart’s desire, is doomed to fail. After reading what Gilbert has to say about curiosity, however, I think we can also conclude that writer’s block is often our creative selves experiencing artistic hunger pangs. We hunger to ask questions. Hunger to explore. Hunger to play. Hunger to chase down white rabbits and have an adventure.
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If you’re feeling unmotivated and passionless as you write or brainstorm your next project, I encourage you to consider what’s been interesting you lately. It could be anything – something as academic as Egyptology or as rudimentary as growing potatoes. Nothing is off limits or insignificant when it comes to playing with your own unique and organic sense of curiosity. Give it the time and attention it asks of you, and you may end up finding the key to igniting your passion.
What are you currently curious about? Tweet me at @dandersontyler and let me know!