Imagine an infant, no older than a few months is lying next to you in a playpen on the floor. What is the baby doing? Perhaps they are staring wide-eyed at the mobile floating just above their head, or maybe they are attempting to put a toy in their mouths for the eight-hundredth time. This is because their tiny worlds are completely governed by their sense of curiosity.
Our natural inclination to continually ask ‘why?’ when we were younger has led us to the most impressive inventions and discoveries in the world’s history. Curiosity is the one part of our personality that has been hard-wired in our brains since day one, and it is likely what led you to click my link and see what some writer has to say about it.
Luckily, curiosity is one of the most important traits a writer can have. Indeed, one of the biggest drivers for a writer are two simple words: what if?
It’s not uncommon, however, for us to lose our hold of curiosity as we age – to rely more on what we are told than on what we discover for ourselves. And this lack of interest in discovery can have real consequences in our world and can damage a writer’s ability to create.
However, there is hope! Because our brains’ first love will always be curiosity, we can easily harness its power again. Try some of these easy strategies for bolstering your curiosity:
1. Set aside some time for your curiosity today. Ask yourself what you’re curious about and make a list. Choose one topic from your list and follow your curiosity down any wormhole that continues to pique your curiosity.
2. Be open to new perspectives and actively seek out viewpoints that don’t align with your own. It’s important for your writing to have characters with conflicting beliefs, and that conflict is often uncomfortable. Understand how to sit with it, how it makes you feel, and then write about your experience to help you build authentic characters.
3. Take time to learn about others. Be curious about the people around you. Talk to them. Ask them about their lives, why they made certain decisions, and what they would change if they could do it all over again. Listen actively and throw yourself into their story.
4. Use your past to inspire your creativity. Go back into your writing archives and explore why specific writing topics were important to you five years ago. Or, go back to middle school and become curious about the person you were at that time. Ask your twelve-year-old self who they were, what they wanted, and why they behaved in certain ways. Then write about a twelve-year-old navigating their first year of middle school all over again.
5. Take time to process. Our brains are constantly overstimulated, and we rarely have time to process what we are learning, hearing, or seeing. Unplug, go outside, and let your brain wander. You never know what kind of creative plots and stories your brain can muster when it has time to think.
6. Bonus: Do something that excites you. Drive to a destination without your GPS and see where you end up. Take a class on a foreign language. Go skydiving. Be curious about the people you meet and be open to the new experiences you’ll have. Then write.
When we allow ourselves to be curious, we allow ourselves to be creative. The two go hand-in-hand. You never know how a new person or a unique experience will shape your perceptions, spark an idea, or help you write a best-selling novel.