Why Curiosity Matters

Why Curiosity Matters

Picture of a bridgeToday marks three years since I resigned from my corporate job. I had no plan. No other job lined up, no exotic vacation planned, no lottery winnings to cushion my leap. But I was disruptively curious. Why did I no longer have the energy or desire to do anything creative anymore? Why was I so miserable if I had everything I should want? My Curiosity would keep me awake at night, with questions like “Is this really what I’m meant to be doing?” “Isn’t there more than this?”

Don’t get me wrong. I was truly grateful for all of the prosperity I had. But that’s not what this is about. It’s not about “crushing it” or keeping up with the Joneses. It’s about the potential consequences of ignoring your Curiosity. Of blocking out that inner questioning whisper that keeps asking you…are you sure you are okay with this?

I had recently read both The Gifts of Imperfection and Big Magic, and the issues of choosing curiosity over comfort or fear kept coming up for me. And finally the inner whisper of Curiosity became more like a persistent directive, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

So I did it. I resigned from the safety and security of a comfortable office job, and I cracked open the vault of my life savings. I took some time off, and I reconnected to all of the curious creative desires I had been neglecting. I painted, I traveled, I spent long afternoons in the park. I tried to let Curiosity lead me wherever it wanted to go.

Trying new things became my new job. New museums, new restaurants, new hobbies. I fed my Curiosity a daily diet of “never done this before, let’s try it.” I even started this blog, to chronicle my adventures and see what would happen.

Slowly, very slowly, I started to remember who I was. I felt the dense fog of not listening lift and some of the lightness return.

And now, three years later, I have a thriving business I created myself and I get to make and do a ton of really cool and creative things.

I'm making space for the unknown future

But as my calendar has started to get crowded again, with client appointments and meetings and classes and you know…time to do the actual WORK, the fun and creative time gets pushed aside.

Yes, I still calendar all of my creative stuff too, like crafty classes or artist’s dates with myself. And I know how important it is! But I’m going to be honest here: if a client calls, those creativity times are the first appointments to get bumped. When you’re a small business, your livelihood tends to take precedence over any and everything else.

Why do we stop listening to Curiosity? Maybe it’s fear of the unknown. Maybe it’s that we’re just too damned comfortable right where we are.

But here’s why Curiosity matters: if I’m not following my Curiosity, my creativity suffers. My Curiosity is what opens me up, lets me play, experiment, and find joy. It’s like a beautiful flowering plant. If I don’t water and feed it occasionally, it withers away.

And I’ve already killed enough plants, so I’m not letting this one die.

I owe a lot to my Curiosity. These are just some of the adventures I never would have taken if I wasn’t following my Curiosity:

  1. Started my business, Purple Ink Creative
  2. Traveled to NYC solo
  3. Attended Craftcation (and made a ton of cool crafts and crafty friends)
  4. Became a yogi and then a yoga teacher
  5. Taken classes on kayaking, soldering metal and Reiki
  6. Learned to love papaya (work in progress)

Clearly, my Curiosity has led me to some exciting and amazing places. And my business depends on my creativity. I can’t serve my clients well if my creative juices aren’t flowing at full capacity. Plus–a happy me is a creative me. So on this third anniversary of my own Independence Day, I’m reminded that I need to pay some attention to my Curiosity.

How can we choose Curiosity over fear or comfort?

  1. Listen Up

    Start listening to that inner whisper when it says “is this really okay for you?” or “don’t you miss being creative?” or “hey, that looks fun, try it out!” PS: If you’ve been ignoring that voice for a long time, it’s going to take some practice to start tuning in again. Just start by noticing when it comes up for you. It might be more often than you think.

  2. Ask Questions

    When you say no to something automatically, PAUSE. Ask yourself why. Be curious. Can you say yes instead? Why don’t you want to do it? Maybe, just maybe, try on what it feels like to say yes instead.

  3. List It

    Make a list of all the things you have ever wanted to try. Make another list of things you have no interest in EVER doing and then ask yourself what it is about those things that make you avoid them. Maybe you’ll move some over to the “TRY” list. I’m a big list maker, but even if lists aren’t your thing, try it. It’s a great, quick way to organize your thoughts. (Maybe it’s the first new thing you can try!)

  4. Leap & Learn

    Now you just need to actually DO. Be brave! Start small! Try a vegetable you’ve never liked. Check out a new restaurant, book store or morning walk route. Read a new book, listen to a new podcast, sign up for a new class. Take note how it feels. Are you pulled towards something? Explore that more.

  5. Ignore the Resistance

    Remember that pesky Resistance? It’s going to tell you that you’re being silly, irresponsible, ridiculous, etc. Thank it for the warning, and let it go. Get back to your work of being curious.

Bonus points if you keep a journal during this curious time and document for yourself how it feels to try new stuff. I promise you will enjoy looking back on your journey. And it will help remind you when you occasionally lose that sense of joyful Curiosity how important it is to go and find it again. And please come back here and tell me how it goes. I’m so curious!

How Painting Helped Me Get My Mojo Back

How Painting Helped Me Get My Mojo Back

Can you remember a time when anything was possible? When we were kids, and there were no limits to your creativity and no bounds to what you could create with your imagination?

I can. It’s a distant memory, but still one I can just grasp with my fingertips if I try really hard.

I can almost even remember a time when painting was just simply fun for me. My favorite part about it was always mixing up the colors; starting with two or three bright hues and ending up with six or more variations.

But as I grew older, and everyone else’s opinions started to matter more than my own, I lost my love for painting. The trouble always came when I had to actually put those beautiful colors on the canvas. I was just too afraid I would screw it up. So I taught for awhile, finding it much easier to instruct others at art than to put myself out there. And then, more than 20 years ago, I put my paintbrushes away. For good, I thought.

Then one day I saw a stunningly beautiful image in my Facebook feed, presented by Elizabeth Gilbert. The painter was Tracy Verdugo.

It was all loose interpretation; vibrant colors, thoughtful subjects, and what looked like flowing, beautiful ART.

My curiosity was piqued; I did some digging and found Tracy’s online Paint Mojo class. I connected immediately. Her style is not just about painting—it’s like therapy.

Tracy Verdugo
The incomparable Tracy Verdugo, at Crescendoh Studios in Santa Ana, CA

See, her whole process is about letting go, and not getting too attached to anything you put on the canvas. I know, right?!

I took her online class more than a year ago, when I was still working my corporate job and looking for a weekend creative outlet. It’s a 6-week class, packed with information, techniques, videos, and homework. It took about 3 weeks for me to get completely overwhelmed.

“I can’t do this,” I whined to my ever-patient husband. “It’s too haaaaaard…” I wailed, sounding like spoiled brat.

Letting go is never easy. For me, I loved the part where we dripped a rainbow of acrylic inks on the canvas and then turned the support so they ran and bloomed together. But the next step was to cover up some of that glorious color, and I just couldn’t.

I could. Not. Even.

I had grown too attached to that splattered, colorful abstract mess.

So I put the paints down, and I left that canvas to sit on my easel, in my studio, for months and months.

IMG_0294

Then Tracy came to town. And I knew I had to face my fears and go to her in-person class. Because I knew she wouldn’t let me stay attached.

Time to face my fears.

The first day, I got there 5 minutes late. I certainly didn’t want to be the first person in the room! Much to my dismay, I was one of the last to arrive. All the “good spots” were taken.

“We’ve got room over here!” I heard, and looked up to see two kind women beckoning me over to their table.

We started chatting, and they told me this was their first time painting. Ever.

I marveled at their courage, and decided I’d better quit my whining and get down to business.

The next three days were incredible. I let go. Tracy had us writing poetry, and splattering ink across our canvasses, and the only thing we had to “work” on was our reckless abandonment of any preconceptions. We were all part of the same tribe, these ladies and I. Some of them were artists by trade, and some of them weren’t. We were of all ages, from all different areas around the country. But we were all trying to let go.

I felt like a new me in that class. I splattered. I smeared. I tried really hard to not try so hard. With my headphones in, I got down on the floor and I gave myself over to it. I did not allow that familiar critical voice to come in and spoil the fun. I just painted.

I came home covered in paint and exhausted every night, and slept like a baby.

Turtle painting by SChagollan
My finished painting: my swimming turtle

When it was all over, I had created a big, fat, colorful mess of a painting, and I LOVE it.

Is it perfect? NO. Is it proportional and well-rendered? NOT REALLY.

But you know what? I really don’t care. And I’m not just being flippant about that. I really and truly don’t give a flying *F* if anyone else likes my work. Because it’s not for them. Or for you.

It’s for me.

And I’ve realized, in the weeks since that class, that that’s how I want all my creative work to be.

Just like that lovely artist said to me not so long ago, “this isn’t my bread, it’s my roses.” YES. Exactly.

So if you want my advice…go take an art class. Any old art class. At your community center, or your local “wine and paint” place, or a ceramic studio or an online course. It’s incredibly freeing, empowering and fulfilling to express your creativity.

And I promise it will help you get your mojo back.

Finding my love for painting again has reminded me of that kid-like feeling of possibility and imagination, not just in my artwork, but really in all aspects of my life and work.

That mojo is some powerful stuff.

P.S. Looking for more inspiration, or not quite ready to pick your brush up yet? Check out these 5 Books To Start You On A Creative Path. Or listen to Liz Gilbert’s new season of the Big Magic podcast for inspiration—it’s bound to give you courage to take the leap into creativity.

P.P.S. Yes, I finally went back to the canvas I abandoned in Tracy’s online class and…I did it. I painted OVER it. 🙂 It’s still a work in progress. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.

And please, leave me a comment below telling me how YOU get YOUR mojo back! We’re all in this together. We creative spirits have to support one another!

 

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