A Matter Of Words

Distinguishing Curiosity From Creativity

A Matter Of Words

I’m a designer. I’ve been an “arts kid" my whole life. I’ve danced, played piano and guitar, made crafts, sowed, painted, drawn, studied graphic design. Yet I’ve never related to such claims as “embracing my creative self”, “building my creative confidence”, or “unleashing my creativity”.

I do consider myself creative (as an adjective) because of my work. As a designer, I constantly “create” stuff from nothing. But I've found that I can't quite define myself as a creative (as a noun).

I'm having a bit of a hard time with the word creative becoming a job title. Not only has it become a noun, but this one word now seems to encompass our entire identities. If you have that skill, that ability, then you get the label for it and it defines your whole self. People now expect creation from you outside of work. It distills your whole person to that sole aspect; you're now "a creative".

I consider myself, my identity, my characteristic, as being much more curious than creative. I don’t create that much outside of work (workin' on it), but curiosity is that part of me that never sleeps. I just never stop wondering, wanting to know, asking questions in my mind.

Why hasn't the word curious made the switch from adjective to noun yet? Isn’t it a valuable defining trait of its own?

Curiosity is about caring, being interested. It sounds to me like a much more “outwards” thing than creativity, where you typically take stuff from inside and put it out into the world. Although in reality, nothing ever gets created. Stuff just gets revisited. Creativity is about remixing; taking existing ideas and reimagining them in new combinations. Inevitably, curiosity is a huge part of that.

What I feel more strongly than an impulse to create is a constant desire to take in everything from the outside world. To learn, to know, to understand, to connect, to discover, to grow.

Maybe that’s the distinction between creativity and curiosity. Creativity feels more self-centered, where one bravely shines one's inner light for others to see. Whereas curiosity, to me, is the practice of continuously defining my place in the world, and working towards an understanding of the people and the systems around me.

Curiosity is driven by the outside world; if I understand the world, I'll know my place in it and where I fit in. Creativity is moreso driven by the self. Creatives tend to be very much in touch with their inner truth. They tap into that to shout on the rooftops: "Here I am! This is me! Make room for me and all this stuff I made!"

I really see myself as a curious even though that's not a thing yet. And it probably never will. Because creativity is monetizable and unless we can find a way to create a need for Chief Curiosity Officers, I don't believe the switch from adjective to noun is likely to happen. But let's keep hoping, for us creatives who have plenty of other interests to show the world.