I haven’t chosen a Word of the Year for a few years now, not because I don’t like the idea, but simply because nothing has risen to the surface. Last month, though, as I was rereading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, I couldn’t help but notice the word curiosity.
Gilbert is big on curiosity, which she refers to as a “devotion to inquisitiveness.” She understands that nurturing our curiosity is an important part of what she calls creative living, which she defines as: “living a life driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”
It’s important to note that Gilbert doesn’t limit “creative living” to creative vocations like writing, art or music. Rather, she sees the potential for creative living, for pursuing inquisitiveness, as something inherent in all of us, regardless of our chosen professions.
The more I read and the more I pondered, the more I realized that somehow, over time and amid responsibilities, obligations, duties and deadlines, I’ve lost, or perhaps abandoned, my God-given sense of curiosity.
Here, for example, are some of Gilbert’s questions and my answers, which I recorded in my journal as I was reading Big Magic:
“What fascinates you?” I don’t know.
“What makes your curious? What excites you? What kind of activity would make you lose all track of time? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
“What activity beyond the mundane takes you out of your established and limiting roles?” I don’t know.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I am a rule follower through and through. Type A, a 3 on the Enneagram (“Achiever”), deadline drive, efficient to a fault, my first priority is always to do what needs to be done. I “make it happen,” as my dad always urged when I was growing up.
There’s nothing wrong with being a responsible Type A achiever. As an Enneagram 3, I keep company with people like Condoleezza Rice, nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, AA founder Bill Wilson, Oprah Winfrey, and Madonna. Not a bad line-up (on the other hand, other famous 3s include Augustus Caesar, O.J. Simpson, Bernie Madoff, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Kevin Spacey…but we’ll leave that for another blog post).
This drive to “make it happen” – to tick off every item on my to-do list, meet every deadline, fulfill every obligation and achieve every goal – becomes problematic, however, when it becomes my default, when my drive to accomplish and achieve comes at the expense of everything else.
Looking back to 2017, I see that my life has been driven largely by productivity, punctuated by periods of rampant social media use. I’m either scrambling full-steam ahead to meet my deadlines and check the next item off my to-do list, or, drained and exhausted, self-medicating with mind-numbing skimming and scrolling.
Social media, it seems, has become a panacea for true curiosity, and my own brain, whirling and churning with everyone else’s thoughts, ideas, opinions and products, has essentially checked out. I’ve gotten lazy, complacent. Why pursue my own inquisitiveness when I can simply read about someone else’s quest?
This, it turns out, is precisely how one ends up living a supposed “creative life” that is actually devoid of creative living.
And thus, how it’s come to be that curiosity is my word for 2018.
Truthfully, I don’t know what living curiously will look for me this year. I have only the slightest hints so far, words and phrases I’ve penned in my journal that might, or might not, be pathways to curiosity: nature, walking, photography, cooking, writing what I feel like writing about, rather than what I feel like I should be writing about.
I don’t know exactly how, or even if, I will pursue any of these possible areas of interest. I don’t know if there are other interests still waiting to be discovered (though I suspect there are).
What I do know is that I need to pay closer attention to what lights a fire in my spirit. And then, instead of dutifully checking off the next item on my to-do list, or reading online about the fabulously interesting curiosity someone else is pursuing, I need to put down the to-do list, power down the Internet, and, as Elizabeth Gilbert advises, find the courage to bring forth the treasures hidden within me.