How to Be a Better Writer: Cultivate Curiosity

How to Be a Better Writer: Cultivate Curiosity — Write RightAn article at PBS explains how to raise curious kids, noting that curiosity can improve academic performance. A fair and good point, but kids aren’t the only ones who need “to be raised.” Adults do, too. They sometimes forget that curiosity is an excellent quality, in all fields of study and all stages of life. It creates excitement and allows a person to laugh with delight at the smallest of things. It causes people to try new things and to spend time learning about a subject.

With that in mind, PBS’ article offers insight into how adults can cultivate curiosity. The steps mirror the ones used with kids. They include asking questions, exploring, researching, and connecting with peers and experts.

Ask Questions

A writer’s favorite questions number six: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Such questions aim to discover foundational elements. They aren’t content with pat answers; they want the nitty-gritty details.

Asking questions, too, is a way to “name the world.” Young kids want to identify and categorize. Adults work similarly, although the goal may be more complex. They want to compare and contrast. They peer into a structure to understand its components in order to refine their initial identifications and categorizations.

Explore the World

Writers should also explore the world, be it through their minds or feet. Reading a new author introduces writers to new ways of using language and images. Visiting a new vacation spot allows the eyes to see the world anew and refreshes the spirit.

PBS also suggests employing the art of “redirection.” When kids want do something that will hurt them, parents “redirect” them to a safer, similar activity. Adults can accomplish something similar by changing an everyday routine, such as a route to work. Traveling a new path invigorates the mind and causes it to pay attention to what’s going on around them.

Research the Subject

Most writers tend to be researchers. They read up on their fictitious story sites, characters, and other details. Some authors, like Marie Brennan, draw from an anthropology and archeology background, which allows them to write believable and entirely fictional memoirs.

PBS adds an interesting facet to research; the writer of the article suggests asking kids, “What do you think?” before looking up the answer at the library or online. Adults should follow the same process. They sometimes come up with inventive answers, not to mention original research.

Connect with an Expert

Writers should also forge communities and connections. Through connections come occasions to gain expertise—hence the detailed acknowledgements page found in books like Angelmaker. The author, Nick Harkaway, writes:

John D. Sahr of the University of Washington was kind enough to advise me casually on matters relating to supercooled water and submarines. I promptly ignored the realities in the name of good storymaking. Thanks are due to John anyway, and to his legal advisor, Grape the Labrador Retriever.

Connections and communities often lead to collaborative opportunities, too. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, for example, formed a connection based on mutual admiration. The resulting work was Good Omens, a hysterical tale about the apocalypse.

By employing the four techniques outlined above, adults will remain curious all the days of their lives. That curiosity pays dividends. It leads to creative thinking and problem solving, two skills that never go out of style. With them, adults write better books and solve challenging scientific, mathematic, and medical puzzles.

Image: kimdokhac (Creative Commons)