Be curious about your inspiration…curiosity will lead to your passion.
In June of this year, I treated myself to a four-day solo retreat. I spent those days reacquainting myself with a manuscript I had written fifteen years ago. Fifteen years!
As I read, highlighted, annotated and plotted (pun intended) my next moves with the novel, I felt energized by my reunion with my creation. I was excited to make this project a regular part of my life and move it to the next level (wherever that might be). I felt inspired.
Then, I let life intrude. Over the course of the next five months, I spent a total of three hours (probably) working on the manuscript. Three hours! I found every reason to talk myself out of doing the work. My biggest and most relied upon excuse: “Well, if I can’t devote at least a couple of hours a day, there is no use getting into it.” Guess what? I never found the two hours. Ergo, I never wrote another sentence in my novel. I had become, on this project, one of those people who does not finish things.
It bothered me. But not enough to do anything, mind you. Guess it really didn’t bother me that much.
I was guilty of what Steven Pressfield refers to as The Resistance. Seth Godin speaks of the failure to ship. I got bogged down doing little but wallowing in what ifs and not-good-enoughs.
Enter Elizabeth Gilbert and her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Gilbert maintains that “often what keeps us from creative living is our self-absorption (our self-doubt, our self-disgust, our self-judgment, our crushing sense of self-protection).”
Creative living—whether that be as an artist, writer, office worker, teacher, nurse, leader, parent or what have you—is, according to Gilbert, “…living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”
As I read Big Magic, I felt like Gilbert spoke to directly to me. She spoke of inspiration: “If inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you, it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you.”
Be curious about your inspiration, she told me. (Well, not really me…but, geez, it did resonate! I know she had to be looking at me from somewhere.) Curiosity will lead to your passion.
I never had the intention of writing a novel. Never have had any such training. No creative writing classes (that I can remember). No nurturing family growing up urging me to be creative.
In 1997, Laurie and I moved to Atlantic Beach and I became thoroughly immersed in our new community. I wanted to know about its history. I was curious.
That led me to a community committee to put together a book about our beachside community. I started interviewing long-time residents. Each conversation raised more questions; more curiosity.
A year or so passed and the committee never really got far; no product (that I remember) came from it. What did happen, though, was my building curiosity about a hotel built in Atlantic Beach by Henry Flagler in 1901.
I kept asking questions. Who were the guests? Why did they come? What was happening in their lives, the community, and the nation? I became more and more curious about this long-ago venue that no longer existed but for a few folks’ memories.
What emerged was my 360+ page manuscript. My initial passion drove me to learn about my community—not do research for a novel. My curiosity, however, complemented my initial passion and led me to a new passion. If I had not been curious, I would have missed that inspiration.
Elizabeth Gilbert reminded me that when I find reasons (excuses) to not do what I want to do/need to do, I am cheating myself and my inspiration. She reminded me of something I know—we all know. The best way to start a project that seems intimidating is to begin with one small step and build from there. Heck, I even developed an activity for my students called “The Two-Minute Drill.”
The result: I told myself I could find 15 to 30 minutes per day to work with the novel. And over the course of the past week, I’ve not missed a day. A simple reminder. A simpler step. Action. Commitment. Still a long way to go. But what is the saying about the long journey and the single step?
Are you feeling frustrated and blocked by a project that mocks you from across the room? Does it dare you to roll up your sleeves and start working-someplace? Gilbert says that “Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process.” Remember that. Passion is great—but are you committed to the passion? That is the real question.
If the passion wanes or leaves you…then be curious. What are you interested in—even in the slightest? What clues reside within that curiosity? What new passions await?
Video recommendation for the week:
It might not be a novel. In fact, it probably is not a novel. Makes no matter. The point: Embrace the curiosity, get on board, and be open to a wonderful ride.
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.