Finding practices to support my curiosity
Writing, inquiry, and being
At the beginning of each year, I pick a word to encompass a theme of growth for myself. A couple years ago it was drive. That year I wanted to improve how I move personal and work projects forward. I also wanted to literally drive out and explore more of California.
This year it began as curiosity and has morphed to include inquiry. Around the turn of the year I had just finished reading How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. The book wanders, explores, and connects. It moves across awareness, art, activism, bioregionalism, and it all feels right because there’s a deep question threading through it all.
It’s strange thinking of the beginning of the year. Everything is different, time has warped. This word is still with me. To me, inquiry is a powerful root of motivation and passion. If I can build the scaffolding to support this, I can find energy when motivation dwindles.
When I reflect on stages of my life where I’ve had bursts of curiosity, there’s some book that sparked it all. One of the first times I felt this was reading Chaos by James Gleick back in high school. His curiosity became my own. I was obsessed, and later chose to major in physics and math, in part because of the book. Reading his work, you’re along in the journey. You’re following his curiosity. It’s thrilling. Curiosity — such a powerful life-giving force — can be cultivated with words.
Susan Orlean emphasizes the importance of the question for writing:
“But what makes a good story? It can’t merely be a topic (ie, orchids). There has to be some question being begged or it will read like a term paper. It can certainly be a person — though it helps if there is a question there, too, to make it more than a bio. It can be something strange or it can be something very familiar.”
Question. Curiosity. Inquiry. The question drives the story forward. What I’ve noticed is that it’s not just the story, it’s life. When I’m curious, I’m here, I’m alive, I’m being. And if words can cultivate inquiry, then writing can support that practice.
Write for yourself, and you’ll write for the close friends you didn’t know you had…. if you write, you’ll eventually bump into people who are eerily similar to you.
Inquiry shifts. By context, project, place, task — I bring a different question. For me right now: How might I use this space, right here, to support my curiosity?