wonder - write better by exploring your fascination

You know that feeling of really, really wanting to know something? We cruise for options and scan for answers. We try things out. We try again. We get various degrees of obsessed. When you dive into the fascination at the core of a true quest, the energy and excitement of your quest deepens and stabilizes.

A writing quest will draw out the best of you when it compels you to need to know more about your topic. Why do ravens do that? What part of my day was a poem? What would make the father cry? As you allow yourself to fall into the depths of the fascination, as you follow feelings of awe and immerse yourself in adoration, you let wonder lead you to yourself.

We write to express ourselves, to express the self. Even if you’re writing a business plan, you express your self in what you include, in what you deem important enough to draw the reader’s attention to. Clarifying your quest is about connecting with your self. Exploring your fascination is about using the feeling of wonder to learn more about your topic in relation to your self.

wonder (verb) – admire excitedly, marvel, feel surprised, speculate, be awestruck, be flabbergasted, question, be astonished, be awed, be amazed, gape, goggle. (noun) – fascination, amazement, reverence, bewilderment, surprise about something new, incredulity, awe, curiosity, puzzled interest

At the heart of wonder is the desire to know more – about the past lives of the story’s characters, about the company’s goals, about what mice do in the wintertime, about whatever intrigues you. There’s nothing of the editor in wonder. Only pure, unfettered devotion.

Raw material makes no apologies. It’s not trying to be something else. Particularly, it’s not trying to be a super-cool creation. The raw material isn’t doing the creating. You are. Your creation comes from the way you react to your raw material, by following your feelings about it, by wondering and collecting and noticing, by combining and allowing.

Allow your love affair with the raw material to lead you to strange and curious ways of gathering, playing with, sorting, recombining, and expanding your collection. It doesn’t matter how that looks, as long as it works for you. It’s okay if your raw material is messy and all over the place, literally and figuratively. The muse is charmed by the limitless.

raw – unedited, unprocessed, undigested, undisguised, new, unrefined, immature, green, naive, wet behind the ears, raggedy-ass, young, unripe, unanalyzed, strong, organic, intense, powerful, unrestrained, uninhibited, in its true state, naked

This stage of creativity is not about supposed to. It’s about love. It’s about listening carefully to what your love is telling you about your topic and how to fondle it. Cardboard box with scraps of notes piling up? Spreadsheets? White board? Digital bulletin board? Workbench? There are no limits. Invent something if you need to. Or, better yet, fall further into what’s already happening naturally.

Lean in. Lean toward. That’s the whole point of wonder – removing the limits to your devotion so you’re free to hear and feel what your fascination wants to tell you. Get sappy, be eager, fall open, become raw like your material.

As you build your expertise with your raw material, hold judgment at bay. If you feel wary or uncomfortable about what’s coming forward to be adored, ask more questions. Delve into what’s making you feel uncomfortable. It could just be your ego hoping you don’t discover that gold nugget which would upset the status quo and change everything. Don’t turn away. Look. Reach out. Make contact. Go further. Understand. Befriend.

“When enthusiasm encounters obstacles
in the form of adverse situations or uncooperative people,
it never attacks but walks around them
or by yielding and embracing turns the opposing energy
into a helpful one, the foe into a friend.”
Eckhart Tolle

One question leads to another. And at some point, something mysterious and remarkable happens. When the fascination that compelled you to choose your quest is given your curious attention and caring, when it’s allowed to thrive, what you write will glow from within. Wonder gives your writing layers, light and shadow, dimension, vitality. Your immersion in the fascination illuminates you. Through adoration, your quest becomes holy.

Building your expertise through wonder invites a force greater than you to play along. That force goes by lots of names, depending on who’s doing the naming – the muse, the universe, God, a benevolent power, inspiration. Whatever you call it, it will transmute your raw material into energy that turns the light bulb over your head into a sun. And it will turn a thought into a thing.

That thing is a creation, your creation, a coming together of fascinating bits in a way that transcends and is more than the sum of its parts. Your sustained adoration of the topic gives birth to new life. This is not unreachable divinity only reserved for special people. It’s the everyday miracle of revelation brought on by combining curiosity and true love. And, yes, I believe it’s available to everyone.

The shift from collecting to creating is the trajectory of wonder. The shift from collecting to creating can show up big or small, come sooner or later, and will occur over and over again. It can show up as soon as you plunge into a query that fascinates you. It can appear in stages, in accrued small moments of insight that add up in big ways over time. It can appear suddenly in the immediate foreground (“Ta dah!”). It can come when you’re already deep into the writing.

The creative process is made up of such shifts. We spiral through our raw material, seeing it anew as we view it from different angles, in different moods, on different days. The whole collection revises as more is added and the no-longer-fascinating bits fall away. So stay tuned. Turn willingly through the shifts. Keep a lookout for the feeling of alert stillness that indicates the birth of a new idea.

The shift from collecting to creating also marks a transition from sorting to sharing, from playing happily with the raw material to wanting to express discoveries, recombinations, and interpretations. From inflow to outflow. From exploring to writing with inspired focus.

Throughout a project (and often long before and long after), wonder about the raw material remains active, seductive, and inviting, continually breathing. Keep it alive by following your curiosity and asking questions.

Here’s a mini starter kit to get you going. Ask yourself …

  • What do I love most about this?
  • How can I go deeper into what I love most about this?
  • Have I been resisting any desires about my topic?
  • What did I use to love about this?
  • How does enthusiastic wonder feel in my body?
  • What activities make me lose track of time?
  • What’s exciting, but irrelevant? Is it really irrelevant?
  • What would feed my wonder?
  • Do I have multiple fascinations that could be combined?

We get accustomed to a definition of “normal” that looks like a two-dimensional paper cut-out of our pulsating, succulent selves. Practicing wonder breathes us back into three dimensions, then expands us even further, way out beyond ourselves, out to where wild inspirations roam. Gullible enthusiasm is your means of transport. Enjoy the ride.


This is the second article in a four-part series on writing better by being curious about yourself:

1 – wander – write better by clarifying your quest
2 – wonder – write better by exploring your fascination
3 – ponder – write better by organizing your ideas
4 – persist – write better by maintaining your focus


Related reading: A short article about why curiosity is meaningful to me appeared yesterday on the life by me website.

5 comments to wonder – write better by exploring your fascination

  • Melissa Frykman-Thieme

    Hey Grace–
    This is my new living room– the one with jungle at one edge, mountains climbing the back wall, and the shining sea out before me.
    There’s a glow, a font of wonder in the center– the hearth.
    Then, there’s me.
    Me– monkey in the middle, catching everything tossed my way, sending some of it on, and holding some of it close.
    Lately I just go ahead and write. No forethought, no outline, no plan. Just feeling my feelings and writing what I notice.
    I love the vision I create as you speak, so I’ll be back for another fix– addict that I am. No, make that “enthusiast”.
    Will await your next installment. Wondering while I wander.
    Loving you from afar,

    • Your new living room sounds like it has some of the same qualities of the one I used to enjoy with all our beloveds on Tuesday Art Nights.
      Somehow, I can picture your monkey antics, with your engrossed, content grin at the center of it.
      Loving you back from afar,

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