The Courage of Curiosity
The news that David Bowie was gone was difficult to hear. I didn’t want to believe it. I’ve always admired his artistic courage and the risks he took for his craft.
Then, when the radio announced the death of Alan Rickman a couple of days later, it felt like a double whammy. His portrayal of Snape in the Harry Potter movies was genius. Somehow he walked that fine line that kept everyone wondering – was he or wasn’t he?
Coupled with the book I’m reading, The War of Art, I’ve been thinking a lot about risk and fear and courage.
David Bowie always seemed a few steps ahead of the rest of us.
If you’re creative, you know what that means — people warning you it’s never been done before. Not to take the chance.
Although I’m sure people urged him to be careful, Bowie didn’t seek approval or wait for permission. He wasn’t interested in ‘the sure thing’. But I also don’t think he just threw everything on the wall to see what would stick.
Rather I believe he took time and care to develop his vision and refine the message. When he strode onto the stage, he exuded confidence. I’m sure he had inner questions and doubts at times because he was, after all, a human being, but those things didn’t stop him.
As I thought about the impact he made and what it took to achieve it, I came across this quote. (Don’t you love synchronicity?)
Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. — James Stephens
The power of curiosity gets overlooked all the time. (Maybe it’s all those warnings about the fate of cats.) But if the simple question “I wonder what will happen if…?” gives us the strength to follow our own path, maybe it’s time to cultivate curiosity as a creative tool.
Alan Rickman also took creative risks.
As a young man, Rickman owned a successful graphic design business but he dreamed of acting. In his late twenties, he decided it was now or never. He applied and was accepted into acting school and the rest, as they say, is history.
Did people tell him he was crazy to give up a successful career to follow a dream? Did he suffer from self-doubt like the rest of us?
Perhaps but I’ll bet the thought “I wonder what will happen if…?” acted as an antidote to any doubts and nay-sayers.
All of this reflection offered me a new way to view my own creative ups and downs. I’ve hesitated too often because I listened to the negative or fear-fueled opinions of others. I gave those opinions more weight than the ones that told me to ‘Go for it.”
I suspect that’s true for many of you reading this. When someone’s fear echoes your own doubts, it sounds like truth.
“This is a mistake. No one will understands it. Worse, no one will like it.”
There’s no foundation for these thoughts because, until you put it out there, how will you know? How do THEY know?
No one knows until we try. Besides as long as YOU like it, isn’t that enough reason to do it?
Which brings us back to – Curiosity trumps fear.
I might be hesitant but if I feed my curiosity I don’t even hear those whispers of doubt.
So, with Bowie and Rickman’s legacy as an inspiration when I feel fear and resistance creeping up, I’ll counteract it with this curious question:
“I wonder what will happen if…”
You know something? It’s working so far.
My writer’s block got blown away and I worked on my fiction again after a very, very long time. A painting I’d sketched out over a year ago got pulled out of the closet, as well.
I’d been resisting it because…
Actually I’m not really sure why. Maybe it felt ‘too big’ or I wasn’t sure I could do it. However, when I sat down and called on curiosity, I began painting again and it was FUN. It’s halfway there and I’m excited.
Have I found the secret weapon to overcome fear and resistance? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying David Bowie’s music and Alan Rickman’s movies.
Thanks, David and Alan. You’ll be missed.