Does curiosity fuel your writing flow?

Curiosity makes our writing better in multiple ways

Anne Janzer
3 min readApr 18, 2024
Magnifying glass around a question mark, surrounded by pencils, representing curiosity and writing

“Write what you know.”

Writers hear that advice all the time, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

  • Faced with this advice, aspiring nonfiction writers think, “I don’t know enough to write a book/post/article on this subject.” And that might stop them.
  • Experts may simply to write down everything they know-resulting in a systematic recapitulation of facts. That can be boring, for both the writer and reader.

To gather courage and dodge the doldrums, activate your curiosity. You’ll have more fun and may improve your writing, too.

The joys of curiosity

Most people find great pleasure in satisfying their curiosity. It’s naturally fun-we are learning animals. Science has demonstrated links between curiosity and mental health, learning, and happiness.

Here’s another benefit of leaning into our curiosity as writers: It may make our writing better.

“No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader” — Robert Frost

We might expand Frost’s quote to, “No curiosity in the writer, no curiosity in the reader.”

If you can spark your own interest in the subject, you’re much more likely to spark the reader’s interest as well.

Curiosity connects us to flow

Curiosity might be a gateway into the flow state — that magic time when you immerse yourself entirely in the writing and lose track of everything else.

When in flow, you lose self-consciousness and fear about the work. You get out of your own head and fully into the work.

Curiosity tips the scales toward flow.

Researchers in Australia ran a study that supports this connection. They asked a group to design water conservation programs-a different type of work than writing, but creative. The study participants then evaluated their curiosity about the project and reported whether they experienced flow while working on it.

People who reported feeling curious were more likely to experience flow. And people who worked in a state of flow suggested programs deemed by third-party evaluators to be more creative.

How can you activate curiosity about your writing project? Lean into that sense of exploration and learning, and see if it pulls you into a state of creative flow.

Activate curiosity about your writing projects

Start with pondering the subject, of course. For fiction writers, curiosity might lead you to a telling detail or texture that enriches the story. If you’re a nonfiction writer, explore the questions that you cannot yet answer.

For nonfiction writers, these questions might include:

  • Is there new research on the topic? (That question led me to the study on curiosity and flow.)
  • What’s changing in the world that might affect my topic or reader?
  • What might readers be curious about? Be curious about them, too.

Consider paying attention to the writing process itself:

  • Is there a humorous angle I can take on this topic?
  • What kind of metaphor will help people better understand?
  • What would happen if I try a different medium? (Does this need to be a book? Blog post?)
  • What happens when I read it aloud?
  • Can I find a way to make it 10% more compelling?

Explore and have fun. You may just find that your interest engages the readers as well.

Related Reading

Blog post: Writing in the Zone: Say Hello to Flow

Book: There’s a chapter on activating the reader’s curiosity in Writing to Be Understood. Read an excerpt here: What Makes You Curious?

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Anne Janzer

Author, Writing Coach, Unapologetic Nonfiction Geek. Writing about Writing Itself (very meta).