Want to make the most of your curiosity?
Do you know what you need? A good stimulus list
Does the start of fall remind you of how you loved school? I can picture myself with a backpack slung over my shoulder. Fallen leaves crunch under my feet as I walk to class. Were you the kid squirming in your seat with your hand raised in the air dying to answer the question? Have you always been curious or loved to learn?
My school days ended when I finished a master’s degree over ten years ago. But that doesn’t mean I want to stop learning. The process of learning, sometimes more than the content itself, excites me. In fact, according to a Clifton Strengths Finder test, being a learner is one of my top strengths. Curiosity is also one of my core desired feelings.
A stimulus list ensures I am always learning. Plus, pursuing my curiosity inspires creativity.
What is a stimulus list?
A list of books, articles, conferences, videos, podcasts, courses, and webinars to read, listen, attend, or watch. I first learned about the concept in Todd Henry’s book The Accidental Creative in 2016. Henry introduces the idea in Chapter Seven: What Goes in Must Come Out. He suggests curating a “stimulus queue” and dedicating time every day or week to delve into your list.
Curate your own stimulus list
First, gather together in one place all your ideas. Next time you find an article you want to read, save it and add it to your list.
I keep my list as separate tasks in a Stimulus List project folder in the app Nozbe. When appropriate, I try to include a link or document with the task so I can get right to work. I stumble across materials all the time. Instead of getting tempted to follow my curiosity right that moment, I save it in my list.
Todd Henry suggests asking yourself the following questions to create a study plan.
- What are you curious about right now?
- What would be good for you?
- What information are you lacking for the next three months?
Peek into my stimulus list
My stimulus list has over 200 items on it. To prevent this from feeling overwhelming, I try to focus on my top priorities. Also, I delete items from my list on a regular basis that no longer interest me.
I’m attempting to write my first book, a memoir. To help me with this task, I am doing a sort of DIY MFA. This involves reading lots of memoirs for inspiration and craft books. When I get a chance, I also look for literary events to attend.
I bought tickets to attend the Portland Book Festival in November. This annual day-long celebration of books is a must attend event if you love books. I went last year for the first time, and I kick myself for not going years earlier.
Today I went through the festival schedule to figure out what sessions covered memoir or nonfiction. Then I looked into books written by the authors who’ll be speaking at these sessions. Below is a list of books, I’ll start reading or listening to before the day:
- Up up, down down by Cheston Knapp
- Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America by Gregory Pardio
- How to write an autobiographic novel by Alexander Chee
- The Gospel of Trees by Apricot Anderson Irving
- And now we have everything: On motherhood before I was ready by Meaghan O’Connell
- Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Fit your learning and curiosity into your life
Here’s what I do. I watch videos while eating breakfast or on the treadmill. I listen to podcasts or audiobooks when I’m alone in the car or while on a walk. Webinars or conferences get scheduled on my calendar. A book I’m interested in reading is always on my nightstand. Sometimes not knowing information holds me back from accomplishing something. In that case, I’ll schedule on my calendar something specific to study.
Someday, I dream of copying Bill Gates and taking a weeklong reading and thinking retreat. Maybe I should make learning how to make that possible a future priority of my stimulus list?
Does a stimulus list sound like a good idea to you? What will go on your list?
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