Curiosity Shouldn’t Kill the Cat

curious roy

I’ll admit it. I’m not the most focused person in the world. Sure, I can stick with a task if I set my mind to it, especially if there’s a deadline attached. But more often than not, if left to my own devices I’ll happily meander in and out the simplest of projects all day long.

My problem is that I’m intensely curious.  About everything.

As a kid it could seriously take me half an hour or more to look up a word in the dictionary.  I’m a terrific speller, so finding the word wasn’t the problem.  On the way to the word I was looking for I would stumble on another one that looked pretty interesting so I’d stop to check it out. Which would remind me of another word I had been meaning to look up. Which made me think of… wait, where was I? Oh yes, looking up that word.

Of course now that I do everything on my computer this is no longer a problem for me. I google the word and — bam! — the definition of one word and one word only appears.  No getting distracted by other fun terms along the way.  But while I’m on the internet, let me just check my email really quick. Cool, that new book I ordered has shipped. Which reminds me, I wanted to check out the author’s website. Maybe I should add him to my RSS feeds…

Okay, so the internet didn’t solve my wandering problem; I just traded up from analog to digital.

Actually I don’t consider my wandering off for a while a real problem at all. (Although I’m sure I could find a few people who would disagree with me there.)  It’s in those meanderings that I find some really nifty usable stuff, and that’s also where some of my best creative ideas start to form.  I’m very much a non-linear thinker – I work a little on this, then think a little on that, and research a little on something else. All the little bits and pieces start to ferment in my brain, and I follow the ideas as they bubble to the top. Makes perfect sense to me, although I’ve noticed this process of mine makes some people terribly uncomfortable. Especially when a deadline is looming near. (By the way, I’ve never missed a deadline yet.  I’ve learned to relax and trust in the muse.  She’ll give me the idea or solution when I need it, and her watch keeps pretty good time. )

I get to the end result sooner or later, and in my experience later often yields a better result. My curiosity is what keeps me informed, and what keeps me creative. So I’ll go ahead and keep indulging it when the urge strikes me.

Curiosity doesn’t kill the cat. It makes her a better mouser.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Creative Challenge: what can you do with an old phone book?

Now and then I come up with crazy little creative challenges for myself. (Yes, I’m bored and easily entertained.)  Today while rifling through the hall closet for something completely unrelated, I found three — yes, three! — old phone books.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t used a phone book for its REAL purpose in probably a decade. If I need something I either ask around for recommendations or look it up online. Apparently the only purpose they serve for me is taking up space in my already teeny-tiny closet.

So, being the (bored and easily entertained) creative that I am, I thought “hey, what else could I do with these?”  Here’s what I came up with:

The Phone Book in its Entirety

  • Booster Seat – a tried and true solution. People have been propping their kids up at the dinner table with phone books for generations.
  • Bug Squisher – Drop one from on high and the little critter will never know what hit it. As a bonus, you can tear out a page to clean up the resulting splat.
  • Door Stop – Provided it’s not a really heavy door, this should do the trick. Be careful not to trip on it, though.
  • Umbrella Hat – Stuck in the rain? No problem. Just flop it open and stick it on your head. Voila!  Well, okay – it’s highly unlikely that you will get stuck in a downpour while carrying a phone book, but if in the event it happens you’re covered.

Phone Book Pages

  • Gift Wrap – Tear out a page for that impromptu gift. If you work it right, you can highlight the person’s very own name right there on the paper.  Downside is it only works for relatively small gifts. And it’s kinda see-through.
  • Bird Cage Liner – Sounds like a good idea, but I can’t actually test this one out to verify. I don’t own a bird.
  • Cat Toy – ball a page up and throw it on the floor for hours of crinkly feline fun.
  • Coaster – Fold up and place under drink. I’m testing this one out now, and it seems to be working okay so far. Although I predict that on a very humid day a soggy pile of mush would ensue.
  • Origami – meh, not so much. I’m not exactly an origami expert, but I think the paper is a bit too flimsy to really do it well. Also it’s not perfectly square, so there’s cutting involved before you can start folding.
  • Hat for the Cat – I did warn you that I was bored, didn’t I? As you can see, Jake was not amused.

Okay, so this creative challenge was largely a bust. I didn’t find any nifty new and useful things to do with a phone book, other than toss it into the recycling bin. But that’s the nature of creativity, isn’t it? It’s not about always coming up with “perfect” ideas. It’s about exploring and re-imagining things in the pursuit of a new idea. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

In the words of Thomas Edison, ” I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What creative challenges do you set for yourself? (And what do you do with your old phone books?)

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

“If we think about it, the magic will come.”

This profound statement was handed to me by my 4-year-old yesterday.

We were sitting on the living room floor playing with Legos, talking about what we could build. Then, as our creation took shape, we started figuring out what else it looked like or what else it could be used for.  The boat turned on end and blasted off into outer space. The house became a telephone.  What else could it be?

“If we think about it, the magic will come.”

He’s so right. But as adults, we forget that. We forget what incredible powers of creativity we have, the ability to connect completely unrelated things in innovative ways.  And everyone has it buried in there somewhere – but somewhere in the growing up process we lose that belief in ourselves. We forget how to suspend reality for a while and let our imagination take the reins. As adults we negate the possibility of thinking about things in ways other than what we’re told is appropriate.

An empty paper towel roll isn’t really a telescope or a megaphone.

An empty tissue box isn’t really a shoe.

A shirt stuck on your head isn’t really a cascade of long hair.

Heavens, no! Just imagine where those kinds of thoughts might lead someone!  But that’s my point – imagine where those kinds of thoughts might lead someone…

This very short yet very wise person has helped me open myself back up to the “magic.” To let myself think about things in unconventional ways, and to come up with solutions that go against the rules. To let go of the self-censoring for a while and imagine possibilities rather than focusing so much on why it couldn’t possibly work.

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin argues that  our society has been structured to churn out “mediocre;” there are set parameters that we must stay within for the factory system to maintain its privilege, and we’re taught from a very young age to stay within them to be accepted, to get a job, to live the “American Dream.” Except that system isn’t working anymore, and those that can think beyond those walls are the ones that have the upper hand now. (I won’t spoil it for you – if you want to find out more you can read the book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? [affiliate link] for yourself.)

My young one will learn soon enough that the outside world is a little uncomfortable with playful thinking, so I’m going to encourage him to keep it going on the home front – as much for my sake as his. Don’t be surprised at anything you see when you walk in our front door. With any luck, we’ll all be pleasantly surprised by what comes out of it.

So go think about it. The magic will come.