harnessing the power of your curiosity to get unstuck


There are so many reasons not to start, to feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed, afraid and stuck. Maybe something feels too big, the hill too steep to climb, or you’re afraid of failing  or being disappointed or disappointing.  Maybe your momentum gets hijacked  by some bit of drudgery – some unpleasant, boring but necessary task that has parked itself between you and everything you’d like to be doing.

Whatever the reason stuck is stuck. When you are stuck you lose your clarity, focus and drive. It is a place of frustration and a spinning anxiety and inertia that develops a momentum of it’s own- feeding and compounding and perpetuating the stuckness. It is not a creative place and certainly not a happy place.

Curiosity can break that cycle. Curiosity is an energetic place and you can apply your curiosity to stuckness with a very simple exercise: make a list of questions – at least ten.   To get started the questions can be small or absurd or silly – in fact absurdity can be good for waking up curiosity. And I have found the more questions I can come up with the better they get but the exercise is less about finding solutions ( although they may occur) and more about tapping into the energy of a massively powerful part of your mind.

Even in the case of drudgery, when the objection is  that a task is boring or unpleasant I might ask myself questions like – How could I make this better?  Is there ANYTHING fun or interesting about this? What if there had to be? How could I segment  or order this differently? Could I ask someone for help?  What part of this is not essential? What could I take away? What happens if I don’t do it?  What if I only had 15 minutes?  How could I apply a system here?

There is an element of novelty and perhaps a refreshing of perspective at work here too but it’s curiosity that gets you there. If you can spark your curiosity – even just a little – you can get yourself moving.


  1. Hello Ann! I just found your blog a few days ago via Kristin Nicholas’ newsletter and I was immediately enchanted! I have the fabric and felted wool to start making a few mice and I can’t wait! Your entire collection of miniatures and animals, your sketchbook work and overall aesthetic is simply lovely. I hope you are happy and blest in your creative, artful life! I have loved blogging for many years, and I do visit a good many from time to time, but as my own creative life has gotten more and more full (a wonderful thing) I have less time to sit and read others blogs. So I have a few chosen ones I frequent. Yours has been added to that list. If you have time to visit my website and blog, I hope you enjoy! I am also currently posting on a separate blog just though lent and Easter, having committed to a kind of stay at home pilgrimage where I walk every day, draw from the experience in both sketches and writings. I will send you pics of the mice I make. Thank you for the pattern! Sincerely, Jennifer btw…I am responding here because I just got your newsletter…thank you!

  2. Dear Ann…what a timely post for me. Yet again you have inspired me. I am truly stuck. I’m going through some major health issues and it has sort of lead me to a dark place in my spirit. I have always loved your “One Hundred Horses”, and I thought perhaps if I did something similar that it might clear the way a bit. Swallows are one of my favorite birds, so I’ve chosen to attempt “One Hundred Swallows”. I drew a simple silhouette of a swallow in flight and cut some out of watercolor paper. I paint one every morning, whether I feel like it or not…at least I’m making something. Then I stick it up on my studio wall. I’m hoping that at the end of the hundred days that I will see a change, so the curiosity factor you spoke of is at work.
    So thanks again. The work you do is so very important, and you are a treasure.

    • Mary Park

      What a wonderful idea, I think when we commit to something like one hundred days, we will discover something about ourselves we did not know and also create something we did not expect.

  3. Laurie Sharp

    Great post. Thank you for sharing your ideas on curiosity – cultivating curiosity is undervalued. Ask ‘why’ more often! I’m trying to cultivate curiosity towards math – something totally foreign to me – as I am studying to take the GRE exam. Talk about boring…. but adding curiosity helps.It is very hard to take time away from making and creating in order to study and I am afraid of losing my creativity. But this is the path that I am on right now and math really can be creative and artistic and beautiful, right?

  4. Penny Baugh

    We do such much by rote and by other people’s values or rules. However, I try not to question my own work too much — primarily because it then becomes a judging in my mind against other people’s work or worse ‘what will ‘they’ think about this’. One thing I love about blogs is that it gives me insight into work that I might or might not ever do myself — but seeing it done by someone else lets me investigate what is behind it, what techniques were used, etc. Oh and ‘changing up’ is very important to my growth. Sometimes its difficult to do ‘something different’ after I’ve worked in one venue for awhile but for my creative growth its necessary. Thank you for your words, they are so insightful.

  5. A good post. So many times I start something with great eagerness and then somewhere along the line to completion I falter. I think mostly because the project begins to go in a different direction than I planned and not knowing where that will lead makes me anxious and disinclined to just follow that offset path to see what it leads to. The fact that it really makes no difference to anyone whether the project goes by my plan or the project’s own leading seems not to inspire me to just go with the flow.

    Trying to let the project unfold and be curious as to the outcome might just give me the courage to work outside my own predetermined plan.

  6. I’ve also just started following your blog recently – I couldn’t remember where I found you, but I guess like the first commentator it was from Kristin Nicholas. And I love what I have found with you – the mix of makes and patterns (which you are generous about sharing), and your personal thoughts. Curiosity is such a powerful tool – I’ve found what you’ve written above very helpful (and touching what others have written about their own life struggles they are trying to overcome). Another idea I came across recently for using Curiosity was in a TED talk where the speaker (Judson Brewer) recommended using curiosity to help break bad habits – such a great idea! tho’ I haven’t tried it yet. As for blogging – which you wrote about in your newsletter – I’m just a year old with my blog, so I’m in awe of your blog’s 10 year existence. I do find a lot of good blogs to read – though I think a lot are quite shallow, and really just commercial tools. But the best are like yours: personal and original. I’d like to say that is what I aim for with my blog – not sure I always succeed. I have to keep on yanking myself back to what I feel is my core: my life in the place I live, and not be swayed by other conversations and influences I pick up on the interweb!

  7. Every time I visit one of your sites I had not seen before I am delighted and amazed at your creativity. Your mosquitos are so cute, but since I am enemy
    #1 of these bugs, I am not making any. The find me in the most unusual places, in a group, they just concentrate on me with fierce passion.
    Good luck to the winner.

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