I have been thinking lately of curiosity. I don’t think I come across as curious to people I meet in real life, and yet, I think my Google Search history shows I am interested in so many things, from the aircraft of World War II to the things needed to blow up a petrochemical plant (for a fiction project, really!) My challenge now is how to be curious with/about people. I know that asking people questions, especially experts, leads to more knowledge, as they will bring in aspects I wouldn’t think to google. But I am so bad at asking questions. I am trying to improve, but there aren’t many helpful books or sites (I know, I have googled!)
I used to ask questions all the time. Questions were my default conversations, I’m told, when I was five or six. I can remember conversations with my father:
Me: *Random question about some random thing*
Dad: Why do you want to know? Are you writing a book?
Me: Yes! Yes, I am!
Dad: Well, leave that part out.
After a few rounds of this, I got bolder.
Me: But it’s the most important part!
Dad: That sounds like a boring book.
Touché, Dad, touché.
The results of this sequence of questions:
I would have to look things up at the library and later the internet, meaning I stopped asking questions. Which, for my parents, was the point.
I have not yet written a published book. I have 12 or so novel first drafts and am working on revising some of them.
I am absolutely lousy at asking people questions.
And now I wonder if the result of the curiosity squashing is the fact that I was a rather anxious child. I was so anxious that on the first day of first grade, I didn’t know how to buy lunch (my mother had given me lunch money.) The teacher would collect the money at the beginning of the day and send it to the cafeteria. I somehow missed this. So, the class went to lunch, and I sat at the table and ate nothing.
The lunch period ended, and the teacher came for us. One of my new classmates (bless you, Ellen) mentioned to the teacher that I didn’t eat lunch. When the teacher asked me why I was so scared, I started crying. Eventually, the wise and wonderful teacher realized that even though I was reading at a sixth-grade level, I had the social skills of a baby turtle. She got me lunch with my lunch money, bought me a Happy Time ice cream cone with her own money, and made sure one of the cafeteria ladies sat with me while I ate and brought me back to class.
All I needed was enough bravery and curiosity to ask, Hey, how did you get lunch? when we first got to the table.
All this to say, I will be spending the next few months looking into the intersection of curiosity and anxiety. I have already found a few research studies and will share those as I understand them.