Below is a short discussion inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert on this episode of On Being with Krista Tippett.
Creative living is choosing the path of curiosity over the path of fear.
Does “creativity” apply only to the arts? No. Living in itself is a creative process. An interesting but sometimes boring process. So how do we live creatively? We start by being curious.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, says we shouldn’t get caught up in the world’s fascination with following our “passion.” Passion is not a bad thing – it’s just that it’s simply too demanding. Curiosity, on the other hand, is more forgiving. While curiosity allows us to test the waters, passion immediately requires that we dive in. What if we fail at our passion despite all the work? That’s going to hurt. That’s why we have to be perpetually curious instead.
Elizabeth has some advice about curiosity and the creative process:
- Doing anything creative is mostly boring. No activity is purely interesting. It certainly isn’t all fun, but it’s all part of the process of creating.
- Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Keep trying, and the process will be its own reward.
- Pay attention to your community. Part of life’s creative process is connecting with others. So lean in and engage with the world around you.
- Be more curious than afraid. Curiosity will keep you moving forward, even in the face of fear.
- Whether your curiosity leads you to your passion isn’t important. What matters is you live a life where you explored what fascinates you.
What piques your interest? Indulge your curiosity – you never know where it might take you.
the distilld lessons
Here’s the distilld lessons inspired by the “Choosing Curiosity Over Fear” episode from the On Being podcast:
According to Elizabeth Gilbert, creativity is something that is innate in each of us. In everything we do, make, or build, there is an element of creativity. Everyone has the capacity to lead a creative life.
To do that, what you need is curiosity – the impulse to take a closer look at the things that fascinate you. Consider it the gentler, more forgiving alternative to the route of “following your passion.”
Following your passion can be demanding and exhausting. When you don’t meet expectations, you feel as though you’ve failed. And that's a problem, because that’s not how living creatively should be.
Compare this with curiosity. It’s nothing like passion – it won’t set us on fire, but neither will it burn us. It simply leads us to where it wants us to go.
Sometimes, curiosity can lead you to find your passion. But sometimes it won’t, and that’s fine. Curiosity isn’t about where we’re going or what we’ve produced. It's about finding new paths and trying new things.
To live our life full of curiosity will create a life that is well-lived, one that is unique from everyone else’s. Our life itself becomes a product of creativity, a work of art.
But the creative process isn’t all fun and games – it’s actually quite tedious. Because of this, there has to be a “stubborn gladness” in creativity. We have to keep going, despite how difficult it may be.
Those difficult times are important. They’re part of the process for you to find that spark of creativity. And when you finally find it, that moment will be magical.
Inspiration and hard work go hand in hand in the creative process. The challenge is for us to be ready to catch ideas as they come, and to work on them when they do.
Another challenge to living a creative life is staying curious despite our fear. We can only engage with the world when we learn to overcome our own fears.
Self-judgement is another obstacle. Our tendency to be our own harshest critic can stunt our creative process.
How do we address the obstacle of self-judgment? Be aware of the language you use with yourself. Would you ever speak to a friend that way? If not, then, you need to be kinder to yourself.
Creativity comes from the resolve to keep trying despite any obstacles. We can only allow ourselves to be creative when we love ourselves. We open ourselves to the ideas that come to us. We learn to trust our own hard work.
We emerge as truer, better versions of ourselves along the way. And even if the destination isn’t what we thought it would be, the journey would have been enough. It would have been worth it to have simply lived.
- Live life. Experience more of what your life has to offer. Don’t build your life around a single passion. Are you passionate about writing? Write to your heart’s content. But you may also want to get curious about other forms of art. You never know how they might inspire you in your first passion.
- Experiment and explore. Be curious about everything in your life. Get bits and pieces of information everywhere. The informed mind is a brave mind. In turn, your bravery can inspire others to be brave and curious themselves.
- Be kind to yourself. Don’t think you’re a failure when you get stuck. The creative process gets boring and most of the time, it’s difficult. Getting stuck is just a puzzle that you need to figure out.
- Don’t hate yourself. Don’t be your own enemy – be your own friend. There will be times when you’ll get stuck or fail, and that’s fine. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
For a more in depth conversation, the distilld lessons (extended) are here.