In March of 2020, right at the start of the Covid-19 U.S. quarantine, a playwright named Lauren Gunderson put on a series of playwrighting masterclasses, hosted live on her Facebook page. I gleaned many journal pages worth of information through those livestreams. One of the things that really stuck with me – like an arrow in my skull – was the adage “Interesting people are people with interests.” Gunderson said this was something her Grandmother would often tell her.
She talked about it in the context of creating fictional character – maybe her Grandmother simply referenced it in discussing the neighbor down the block who created large metal statues from scraps in their front lawn, who knows. Characters with interests are characters who interest.
Austin Kleon wrote on the same subject in 2017, though flipping the perspective from fictional characters to the authors wrote them into being. He bring in several quotes from other thinkers and authors on the topic of being interesting, but my favorite has to be advice J. Maureen Henderson gave to students in an article she wrote:
“Work on being an interesting person other people want to be around and are willing to open doors for…. There are many roads to becoming an interesting person, but they all involve developing your curiosity and your desire to know and understand — yourself, others, the world around you. You can read. You can pursue a new activity like knitting or rock climbing. You can volunteer. You can commit to asking three people a day an open-ended question about themselves and really listening to their responses. You can share your information and connections freely.
It’s not just that interesting people happen to like interesting things. Rather, their interest in the world leads them to interesting things, which makes them an interesting person.
Austin Kleon sums up my thoughts better than I can by saying this:
“If you want followers, be someone worth following. [“Have you tried making yourself more interesting?”] seems like a really mean thing to say, unless you think of the word interesting the way writer Lawrence Weschler does: For him, to be “interest-ing” is to be curious and attentive, and to practice “the continual projection of interest.” To put it more simply: If you want to be interesting, you have to be interested.
Interesting follows interest.