by Dr. Diane Rogers
The other day, I was listening to the “Magic Lessons” podcast series hosted by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame). In this series, Gilbert discusses various aspects of creativity with acclaimed contemporary artists, dancers, and writers. She invites them to share their thoughts on the creative process and offer advice for listeners.
I was struck by the words of one guest in particular, Glennon Doyle Melton (of Love Warrior fame), who spoke about the importance of curiosity in the creative process. Melton believes the key to her success is her willingness to stay open to the unknown. She says,
Creativity doesn’t ask us to be ready. It just asks us to show up and dance with it.”
For most of us, the idea of showing up without being fully prepared is a frightening prospect. At some point in each of our lives, however, we are confronted by the choice to embrace uncertainty or shy away from it.
Whether it is motherhood, a new idea, a job, or potential love interest, creativity is the invitation to be ready not to be ready. But how can we welcome opportunities we don’t feel prepared for?
Melton suggests the answer lies in approaching all aspects of life with curiosity.
The Importance of Curiosity
The word curious stems from the Latin, cura, meaning “to care.” When faced with the discomfort of change, those who are curious trust their hearts to lead them through the maze of ambiguity. Open hearts lead to open minds, and open minds are ripe for growth. The opposite of curiosity, of course, is ignorance—not knowing—which is to actively turn away from the search for knowledge.
Here’s how I think about curiosity:
Curiosity is the willingness to tumble down the rabbit hole of uncertainty because you care enough to go in search of what you don’t know.
Curiosity Is an Invitation To Grow
Curiosity applies not only to creative pursuits, but to everyday life as well. In Melton’s case, her creative curiosity began on the bathroom floor with a positive pregnancy test in her hand. Struggling with bulimia and drug and alcohol addiction, she realized her unwanted pregnancy was an invitation to grow. Although she didn’t feel ready, she decided to dig deep for the courage to “show up for the possibility” of a better life.
Her inspiring story chronicles her path to sobriety, activism, and becoming a best-selling author. She says her willingness to stay open led to a journey of exploration. She learned to care more about expressing her own personal truth than how others perceived her. The closer she got to her own truth, the more her work resonated with others. Audiences flock to her because of her willingness live the paradox of vulnerability and courage and to “show up” despite fear.
Choosing Courage Over Comfort
Courage was a theme that popped up again and again across the entire podcast series. When it comes to creativity, curiosity and courage appear to be conjoined twins—one cannot exist without the other.
Curiosity is what makes us wonder what is possible, courage is what moves us to find out.
Every time we make the choice to follow our creative curiosity, when we choose courage over comfort, we grow.
Romanticized, a creative life appears glamourous and free. But as writers, we know the creative path is hard work. Courage is the quality we call on to lean into difficult tasks. It takes courage to learn new things and courage to create something out of nothing.
The Creative Magic of Vulnerability
All acts of creative expression require us to be vulnerable. When it comes to submitting work for critique or potential publication, many writers and artists talk about how exposed they feel—as though they are standing naked in front of a panel of judges.
But here’s the thing: when we have the courage to show up for creativity, we move closer to our authentic selves.
By allowing ourselves to be curious rather than fearful, we mobilize the courage to create into our discomfort rather than moving away from it.
Courage sets us free and inspires others to do the same. I think of the Impressionists, the French painters once ridiculed for defying the boundaries of artistic tradition. Much like the community of O.C. Writers, this network of brave individuals formed a community of support and encouragement. The courage of a few inspired a wider artistic movement influencing a range talented individuals to follow their own creative curiosity.
The Bottom Line
There is no creativity without growth and no growth without curiosity and courage. In the words of Brene Brown,
Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.
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How do you navigate the unexpected creative invitations in your life? Do you shrink or do you show up and dance? Ready to ressurect your courage?