Curiosity and Inspiration


Creativity flows in mysterious ways, a river that rushes along unseen channels. We can perhaps reference things that stir inspiration and rouse those uncanny flashes of insight or attempt to pin down the genesis of a thought, but what causes ideas to bubble to the surface?

On the BookEnds blog, Gina Robertson offered an interesting perspective on this question. She suggested that creativity (in writing and a variety of other endeavors) springs from innate curiosity, articulating a notion that’s simmered in the back of my mind for some time.

Our interest in the unknown is what makes us dig deeper and examine the world from new angles. From inquiring minds and the desire to understand and explore, stories are born. We ask all sorts of questions, and in the weaving of answers, inspiration flows. Yet creativity also requires a certain sense of expectancy and wonder. We don’t only desire to know, we also believe that exploring new ideas will prove fascinating, an endeavor that will prove its own reward.

To wonder (to ask yourself questions or express a wish to know about something) connects directly with a sense of wonder (emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or marvelous). By definition, the two are linked, and they fuel each other. Our mental meanderings produce wonder, and as wonder stirs, creativity blossoms further.

This sense of curiosity also sparks enjoyment of the creative and unusual worlds crafted by others, a desire for exploration of the unknown that marks both readers and writers of speculative fiction. Curiosity compels the reading of fiction as well as the writing of it, and I’d venture to suggest that readers and writers of speculative fiction are particularly curious souls.

What do you think? What role does curiosity play in your creative processes?

Image credit: Earthwatcher


  • Maria Tatham
    November 8, 2011 - 11:09 am · Reply

    You opened with this question: “…what causes ideas to bubble to the surface?”

    The process of how they do, that is how we’re inspired, can be examined, but examination won’t yield all its secrets/treasures. We create because the Lord does–He made us to do this, because He does. Additionally, when we know Him, the process involves the working of His Spirit. And, we’re told this about our ‘work’ in Ephesians 2:10:

    “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

    So this involves mystery…

    You ended with this question: “What role does curiosity play in your creative processes?”

    In retelling fairytales, or writing fantasy, I’m curious about how I can renew (redeem?) their stock elements, that is, remake them to be more faithful to the Truth. It is a fascinating thing to try to do, and it is worth the effort, plus it’s a delight.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      November 9, 2011 - 11:17 am · Reply

      I agree that any attempt to explore the subject of creativity and inspiration will of necessity have limits. While I think it’s worth exploring various elements of creativity to gain insight, the mystery of it is also delightful–I’m glad you mentioned that.

      Ultimately, creativity does reflect the One who created us. We were fashioned in in the image of a Creator, therefore we imagine and create, some of us through writing. I explored this a bit more here, if you’re interested.

      By the way, I love that you retell fairy tales. That’s a genre I quite enjoy reading, and one of my manuscripts falls into that category as well. It is fascinating to make old things new and to draw spiritual themes to the surface. 🙂

        • Sarah Sawyer
          November 10, 2011 - 5:21 pm · Reply

          It’s a manuscript (not yet published), a novel-length retelling of Beauty and the Beast. That story never grows old, I think, which is one of the reasons I was delighted to discover that you’re in the midst of a retelling. I also have a retelling of Snow White outlined. That one is not written yet, in part because I’m currently focusing on editing my epic fantasy novel. I’m sure I’ll return to fairy tale retellings at some point. That may be more than you wanted to know, but there it is!

          • Maria Tatham
            November 11, 2011 - 5:27 pm ·

            No, it’s not more than I wished to know, at all!
            So glad you prioritize, and are majoring on your epic fantasy! Majoring on what is major.
            Since I’ve begun to blog I haven’t worked on my current novel. However, I am also working on a collection fairytales, and my B&B can become part of this.
            Love your choices of fairytales. You’ll get back to them, as the Lord wills, right?

  • Sarah Sawyer
    November 14, 2011 - 2:52 pm · Reply

    I know some writers can juggle many projects at once, but I have to put my primary focus on one at a time. With so many other demands on time, prioritizing is the only way to get things done–at least for me. I will certainly return to the fairy tales at some point, though. One of the most important things I’ve learned about writing is to seek God’s guidance for each step and that includes which projects to tackle when. 🙂

    Blogging does take time, I know, but I hope you’ll be able to restart your WIP soon. I’m assuming it’s fantasy of some sort?

    In the meantime, it sounds like you’re still getting plenty of fiction writing in with your fairy tale retellings. Will they be novel length, novella, or short story? Either way, I’m glad you plan to move forward with more of them–there are too few retellings from a Christian perspective.

  • Maria Tatham
    November 15, 2011 - 10:47 am · Reply

    Sarah, yes to this, where you said:

    “One of the most important things…is to seek God’s guidance for each step and that includes which projects to tackle when.”

    And by His grace, we must determine to do follow this guidance. I’m praying now about my involvements.

    I hope to return to my WIP with joy! My fairytales are story length. Thank you for your encouragement about them. I always return to them, beccause they simply have a unique place in my heart and mind, and writing life.

    Blessings to you as you continue your WIP, and as you return at times to your own fairytales!

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