Journalism Tips: Curiosity may kill cats, but it will save your writing

People are not machines. This may seem obvious on paper, but it’s a bit harder to discern when applied to real life. Many people feel they are put on this Earth to do one very specific thing, and every morning they set to doing that one thing over and over, again and again, until they whither and die. If they’re an accountant, they account. If they’re a teacher, they teach. Like machines, these people feel the only have one task and that is the only task they set to do. While this method of living may work in some careers, it is a recipe for disaster, or at the very least lethargy, when it comes to the creative arts. Whether you’re a writer, artist, poet, musician, filmmaker, or working under some experimental title I don’t even know exists just yet, variety is key to your success, and not just in the work you do. Let me explain:

A toaster’s sole purpose is to toast, and in order to do this it needs electricity. You can toast anything you can fit into your toaster, but virtually every toaster on this planet only functions if it has power provided through an electrical. There is no variety in the diet of your toaster. It needs one thing and one thing only to work. If you try and run your toaster of something else, like water or wind, you’re not going to toast anything anytime soon.

People are not toasters, or any other machine for that matter because we cannot rely on a single source of any kind to survive. We need a variety of foods in order to gain energy, just like we need a variety of influences in order to feel consistently inspired. We all have our go-to foods and sources of inspiration, but if we only rely on those things our palettes will tell us they have grown stale in a very short matter of time.

The same idea also applies to writing: If all you do day in and day out is write about the same thing the same way your creative drive will stall long before it should. If you’re a pop-punk critic who only listens to pop-punk your ability to denote the small differences between various artists will abound, but after several months or maybe even years you will find yourself becoming increasingly burnt out on the genre that once felt like your musical home. This is because all great writing, and by that I mean everything from criticism to novel writing, thrives on original ideas born from a variety of life experiences. Writing solely about pop-punk is perfectly acceptable, but if the only thing you’re putting into your ears is the sound of three chords and gang vocals your mind and body will begin to hate the idea of continuing to rely on that musical diet. You brain can only take so much of the same input before it stops responding as it typically would, and the only way to prevent that from happening is by diversifying your musical and/or entertainment palette.

It’s important to remember when you find yourself stuck on a creative plateau that literally every other person who has tried to create something from nothing has found themselves in the exact same place. Creativity stems from original thought, and those are born from your personal experiences, including all the media you consume throughout the day. Your creativity needs nourishment just like your body, and it can only survive on a single source for so long before it begins to breakdown. The responsibility to prevent that from happening rests entirely on your shoulders, and that is something you should never take for granted. We live in a big, beautiful world of creativity, and you owe it to your own career to experience as much of it as possible. So next time you’re feeling down, stuck, or otherwise lethargic toward your passion, step outside your comfort zone and take in something radically different. Truth be told you might not like what you find, but even if that is the case you will walk away with a new influence and a bevy of new ideas born out of what you have just experience. In those ideas you might find your next big move, and if not at least you’ll have a new story to share with those around you.

Life is short. Take my advice and experience as much of it as possible.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.