Writing and Other Hobbies

instax

credit: instax.co.uk

I consider writing a very serious hobby.

Call it a “passion” or any number of other descriptors, but it’s something I spend a lot of time doing and thinking about.

While I’ve always written, if you asked me 10 years ago what my main hobby was, I would have said “music”. Everything took a back-seat to my being in a band and writing original songs.

Until that band broke up…

Since I got rid of my smartphone and have more creative free-time, my long dormant photography itch has returned, and I purchased a Fujifilm Instax camera.

This got me thinking about friends and fellow creative people who have “too many hobbies”. There are only so many hours in a day, and as creative types get older, “adulting” often assails our best efforts at output with jobs, families, and other un-creative nonsense.

So what can you do? My choice has been to limit my hobbies. If you buy into the idea of the Renaissance Soul then you’re probably shaking your head right now. In my opinion, that whole concept is just a feel good exercise for people who cannot commit to something. During the ACTUAL Renaissance people were discovering new things, these days I’d wager the majority are just intrigued about emulating those they follow on Instagram. I blame the internet, and MTV.

But I digress.

I feel like two hobbies is the right number for those who want to really excel at their passion. Why two? Because you need a secondary hobby to maintain creativity when you’re burnt out on your primary one.

Everyone gets burnt out by their passion on occasion. It’s just a part of the process. We happen to call it “writer’s block”. When burn out happens, you can always refuel your tank by relaxing and enjoying different media. But if you’re the kind of person who recharges their batteries by doing something creative, then a second hobby can do the trick.

instant photograph

credit: 500px blog

Photography can get expensive (just like writing), but it doesn’t have to (just like writing). Learning to use a decent point & shoot digital camera in Manual mode, along with an instant film cam force me to re-learn fundamentals like composition, lighting, and the “exposure triangle”. It can also be a fairly quick hobby, snapping some photos and slowly improving my editing. Taking a few days off from writing to explore another hobby that requires different creative muscles makes me feel refreshed when I sit back down at the old manuscript.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, other than saying it’s good for writers to have additional creative outlets, but not so many that you’re distracted and unable to put the time needed into your writing.

Do you have other hobbies besides writing? Do they help when you’re blocked? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Colombian Donkey Libraries

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Every once in a while a story about books & reading comes along that I need to share.

This is one of them, and it restores my faith in humanity.

This guy has been traveling Colombia with his two donkeys for years, spreading the joy of reading to kids. This is a feel good story, and those “biblioburros” are even cooler than Bookmobiles.

On Writing, Smartphones, and “Waking Up”

glasses

Something happened last month that has profoundly affected my creativity.

My smartphone broke.

Yellow jackets get pretty ornery around late summer (they sense their collective impending doom), and as luck would have it, I got stung in the hand while scrolling Twitter. My phone hit the sidewalk and even a fancy $3 case and screen protector couldn’t save it.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything, as it would turn out.

Enter the flip phone.

I’ve contemplated how much I relied on my smartphone for a while now. I used it too much, and research is showing the negative effects of technology overload, especially on creativity. I decided to switch back to a flip phone as an experiment, and the results were almost immediate.

This is what I found:

  • I’m perfectly OK without a smartphone. I have other computers/devices (GPS, laptop, etc) to access maps and information when I need it. It’s freeing to not feel “connected” at all times.
  • I AM BORED AGAIN. I realized just how long it had been since I felt boredom. I was literally programmed to grab my phone to “fill in the spaces”. Now that the flip phone only serves very intentional functions (calls, texts, email) my body and brain are literally retraining themselves to accept true downtime again. Walking around, standing in lines, all those things that prompted smartphone use are filled with contemplative thought and observations.
  • I realize how pervasive smartphones are. I’ve joked that I’m “awake” now, but being more present has allowed me to see just how often other people are on their devices. It is nearly constant. Kind of scary, but this experiment is about me, not about what others are doing.
  • My attention span is slowly returning. Deliberate, focused consumption of books, movies, and television (even a newspaper!) without the risk of distraction has made me realize the strange cognitive dissonance that “two screening” had caused. For the first few days I felt randomly distracted and jittery sitting through an entire movie. That is slowly fading, and I find myself contemplating what I give my attention to more deeply.
  • I have gotten so many more story ideas in these bored moments. Creativity appears to be expanding to fill those gaps.
  • I have more time to write. Those little (and not so little) pockets of free time are spent writing instead of mindlessly scrolling on a screen.

This endeavor is still burgeoning, but so far I’ve seen mostly positives for the trade offs in convenience. Will I ever get a smartphone again? I’m not sure. But for now I’m enjoying a newfound well of creativity, and only paying $20 a month for something that won’t break if it bounces off a sidewalk.

Thoughts on Writing

This is a great post. It got me thinking about all the ways that the internet (mainly social media) encourages writers to talk about their “writing life”, which as writers know, is far less glamorous than many would like to talk about or project an image of.

Tall Hawk Talks

I have a lot of thoughts about writing. All writers think about writing a lot, but all writers advise new writers not to write about writing, because only people who write care about writing enough to read about it (writing, that is). This leads to a group of slightly odd people reading about writing and writing about writing and repeating a lot of the same stuff and not really achieving anything. Anyway, writers already know about writing. They’ve spent hours practising writing, and still more reading about writing, so they don’t need to read about writing from a brand new writer with much less experience than them.

I love writing, conceptually. I love reading books about writing. I must have read millions more words specifically about writing than words I’ve actually written myself. I feel like I read more books about writing fiction than I do actual fiction, which I’m…

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Book Review: “Kind Nepenthe” by Matthew V. Brockmeyer

nepenthe

I haven’t picked up a thriller in a while.

I snagged a copy of Kind Nepenthe after checking out some reviews and having a quick back-and-forth with author Matthew V. Brockmeyer on Twitter. I was interested in the idea of a supernatural horror story that is based in part on true events.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Kind Nepenthe follows the story of Rebecca, a California post-hippy, who lives in a remote Northern California mountain town along with her daughter Megan and boyfriend Calendula. The three of them are roped into running a marijuana growing operation “off the grid” for an unscrupulous drug dealer named Coyote. This particular area is named “Homicide Hill” which is a not-so-subtle reference to some terrible events in its checkered past.

On another part of the mountain, a meth dealer named “Diesel Dan” is trying to straighten his life out while expecting his first grandchild. Circumstances involving his son DJ, and DJ’s girlfriend Katie, make this more difficult than he’d like though.

Throughout the story, there are strands of the supernatural at play. Brockmeyer teases visions and interactions with ghosts, so the characters aren’t sure if the place is haunted or whether they are going crazy from isolation and drugs.

Kind Nepenthe is a slow burn. It’s plot unfolds at a very leisurely pace, and gives you a large amount of backstory for almost the entire cast. While this is great for character development and realism, I can see some readers being put off by the lack of consistent action. The real meat of the conflict is in the third act, but it takes a while to get there. Plus, the first two acts imply a major conflict between the two casts of characters, which ultimately never happens, as the ending veers off into a different and unexpected direction.

Kind Nepenthe is well written tale of horror and suspense, with a very interesting setting. If you enjoyed The Shining or Mr. Splitfoot then you should probably check it out.

What I Liked:

  • Strong character development
  • Interesting setting and backdrop
  • Some well-placed literary horror references

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Pacing could have been better
  • No major conflict between the main characters seemed like a missed opportunity
  • The ending is very quick and relies on Epilogue