Last year, I was listening to Richard Fidler and author Elizabeth Gilbert on the Conversation Hour, and my ears pricked up because of how she spoke about the nature of creativity, and in particular how she talked about the cultivation of curiosity rather than preach a sermon on following your dreams.
Like Gilbert, I’m not a big fan of preaching on passion, not because I’m not passionate, but because I can’t pin myself down to following just one. For years I had seen this as some kind of creative fault; I’ve never neatly fit into a box that could be named. In fact, my alter-egos Pinky & Maurice, came about precisely to give my growing obsession with clay a name. It was clear after a time I had spent away from clay – directing festivals, raising small children, and crocheting plastic fishing line – that an alter-ego obsessed with making porcelain tableware was emerging, and I wasn’t sure what to do with her at the time.
An interest in porcelain could become a full blown enquiry
‘We become what we do’. This quote is attributed to everyone from Aristotle to motivational speakers; whoever said it, I don’t find it very helpful. For example, I run. I like to run at least 8 kilometres everyday, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a runner! I don’t want to be a runner, I just like to run. ‘Life isn’t a career’, Jane Campion recently said, and I find that much more helpful.
Pottering around with timber in the shed
I love pots, and I make them most days, but I’ve also been known to become completely sidetracked and engrossed by making stuff not only in other materials, but also in entirely new fields. I’m not alone in this. Following your curiosity can open up new creative possibilities and lead you into collaborating with other curious and inspiring makers.
Kid’s author Tristan Bancks in my studio directing the trailer for his book ‘ My Life & Other Exploding Chickens ‘. Cross-fertilise with other artists and in new media. It’s an INSPO BOMB!
For instance, some days I’ve found myself being a film producer, or an actor playing an evil nurse, or being the Art Department on a short film making exploding chickens with rubber gloves! Sounds strangely fun, yes? You can see the results in the silly Youtube below!
An exploding chickens creative genius! Who would have thunk it?
Life isn’t a career, and as Gilbert shares on The Conversation Hour, if we’re open to curiosity, life looks more like a scavenger hunt where we follow a series of clues that spark our interest. These clues might lead to new ideas, they might even propel us toward a passion that we never knew existed. On the other hand, curiosity might take us nowhere, and we may have nothing to show for all our efforts except exploded bits of rubber glove and chicken feathers! However, for Gilbert, devotion to inquisitiveness is a worthwhile pursuit in itself. I tend to agree, and more often than not it’s strangely fun, usually because it feels more like play than work.
If you’re curious about curiosity, even just a little bit, and you’re open to embarking on your own creative adventures, I recommend you listen to Richard Fidler and Elizabeth Gilbert’s conversation here, or read her latest book ‘Big Magic : Creative Living Beyond Fear‘. Who knows, there could be an evil nurse waiting inside you just busting to get out! Or maybe you’ll discover that you like making pots even though you’re a film Producer … and vice versa. 😉
You can see me as Evil Head Nurse ‘Miriam Gooch’ in the silly Youtube below. It features a wonderful cast of hilarious older folks reliving their fictional mate’s escape attempt from a nursing home! All performances are improvised, none of us actors, but all keen for creative adventure.
Amber Melody saysMarch 4, 2016 at 9:06 am
I love this post. And this idea. Because my creativity doesn’t feel at all linear either. And that’s the joy of it, isn’t it!
Personally I wasn’t a huge fan of Big Magic in the end (I was all pumped up to read it and gave up half way – I didn’t need to be converted to creativity and I certainly didn’t need to be given permission) but I’d like to listen to the Richard Fidler interview because 1. I love Fidler. Lol. And, 2. I haven’t given up on Elizabeth Gilbert entirely 🙂
p.s. You make a great evil head nurse.
Claire Atkins saysMarch 4, 2016 at 12:29 pm
So good to hear from you! I think it’s great that you could stop reading the book half way. I think it’s a sure sign your creative courage is in terrific shape! Yeehaaa!!
The experiences of artists is a funny one, after all these years, I still have to give myself permission. I know that it springs from various places; crippling fear, lack of confidence, lack of money! Actually I found Gilbert’s attitude to money and not giving up your day job liberating. I loved how she has never demanded that her writing support her, but rather vowed that she would always take care of it. I loved that. If I did put that kind of pressure on my art, I wouldn’t agree to most of the dumb things I do. I wouldn’t be able to spend my time making rubber chickens and dressing up as an evil nurse that’s for sure!! ; ))
I hope you enjoy the conversation, even if it’s just for Richard’s dulcet tones! In case you didn’t read it, check out the chapter ‘Walk Proudly’ on p260, just because it’s such a funny story and it involves an artist dressed up as a lobster, which really does something for me of course! Ha!!
Carlos Coen saysMarch 14, 2016 at 11:27 am
But what happens if you don’t have an easily identifiable passion? Hearing the advice to follow it often leaves you with more frustration than you started with.
Claire Atkins saysMarch 15, 2016 at 10:33 am
I hear you, and agree with you entirely! That’s why I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s keen interest in following our curiosity rather than passion, because everyone she says is curious. We all have the ability to be curious, even those of us who don’t have an easily identifiable passion. Curiosity she says is milder than passion. Passion is demanding and makes you shave your head and move to Nepal, curiosity just asks if there’s anything that you’re interested in. Even a tiny little bit. And if there is something that captures your attention, turn your head and look at it more closely, and you might be called to investigate it further. In my own life, I call these ‘sparkly’ or ‘shiny things’ and they can be experiences, objects, invitations, events, people, who sit at the edge of my vision and spark my interest, and I take a closer look. It gets me into trouble sometimes, but mostly it makes for a full, adventurous and creative life! 🙂 Claire
Belinda Jeffery saysMarch 16, 2016 at 12:53 pm
I was so moved reading this piece. Thank you for sharing such a magical experience – it gave me the shivers when I read it. It somehow feels so appropriate and normal that this should have happened…like a story from Salman Rushdie.
Claire Atkins saysMarch 16, 2016 at 1:20 pm
Thank you so much for reading the story. This little Indian tale has some kind of magic contained within it, the story itself bugged me and demanded I pay attention to it until I finally wrote it down on the weekend. I’m wondering now where it has flown to, or what other little life it might have been dreaming for itself. Salman Rushdie…you know, I have not read his works. I am terrible, I am the worst in that I almost only read Australian literature, my bad, but I love it. While I was in India, Rushdie’s name, like my tale, kept vying for my attention, so I better listen to that now too! xxC
Belinda Jeffery saysMarch 16, 2016 at 2:45 pm
I can well understand why it got under your skin, Claire…it feels as though it was an encounter that was always going to happen.
If you do decide to read any of Salman Rushdie’s books, Midnight’s Children, his amazing Indian novel, is truly remarkable . It’s one of my favourite books, and I imagine that now you’ve been there, you would find it fascinating. xx
Claire Atkins saysMarch 16, 2016 at 2:51 pm
Right on Belinda! Midnight’s Children it is! xx
Wendy McLoughlin saysMarch 17, 2016 at 9:39 am
LOVED reading this tale as I am in creative permission-giving status and reading BIG MAGIC, which I’m finding liberating, as you have commented. I feel like I just followed some little clues getting here and reading – and watching mad chicken business…and I totally dug the lobster story – so good! And, bonus, I just got a great book recommendation from Belinda Jeffery, too! What more could one ask for? Think of you often – love your smile xxx
Claire Atkins saysMarch 17, 2016 at 11:29 am
Hi Wendy Wildflower!
It’s so good to hear from you. Good on you for giving yourself permission to create and for follow trails! Bring it on! Wishing you big exploding rubber chickens, lobsters and magic stories! xx
Sue Buckle saysMarch 17, 2016 at 11:22 am
Hi Claire – yes pick yourself up off the floor – it’s really me using the worlds technology!,,,,,,
Love your tale of synergy – even in the skies above India. In India all this seems so much more probable. Our trip for me confirmed that fine strong thread that joins clay workers through time and place. A special place and a privilege for us to experience.
I am sitting in Bali surrounded by a million shades of saturated green! Quite a contrast but I constantly reflect on our trip – especially the generous hospitality and friendship we shared with the potters and their families – all thanks to Sandra. Sxxx
Claire Atkins saysMarch 17, 2016 at 11:41 am
Laughing my head off! I can see you now.
Beautiful thoughts, and you’re right about the strong thread binding potters, and I often wonder if other crafts share these kind of familial bonds. I imagine they must. Chefs might?? Or do they have too many knives? Enjoy beautiful Bali! xx