Stop Writing (for a while!) and Get an Instructive Hobby
byon October 18th, 2010 at 01:47 PM (603 Views)
Maeve's blogpost about realizations she had about her writing as a result of having broken two bones in her foot inspires me to post my own article on the lessons I've learned from my own non-writing hobbies. It's a great idea to have one!Often, even the most strenuously blocked writer has another creative outlet in which she is not blocked. It could be a sport, a craft, or a hobby like gardening. Every writer should have such an activity, and practice working out their productivity and perfectionism issues in that safer, easier realm. One student whose hobby was quilting said that a quilting teacher once chirpily told a class, “If no one's bleeding, we're doing great!” That's a great antiperfectionist lesson!
Tell us YOUR hobby, and the writing-related lessons you've learned from it, in the comments. - Hillary
Crafts, in general, are great educational opportunities because they are organized in terms of projects, with a beginning, middle and end.
My own hobby is mountain climbing, and I've learned essential lessons while doing it that I simply wouldn't have learned in any other context:
1) Because I am a slow and uncoordinated climber – and invariably the last up the hill! - there is never a question of excelling. So I have learned to focus on process over product.
2) Climbing quite literally reinforces the notion that even huge progress is achieved one step at a time.
3) In climbing, I frequently encounter steep patches comprised of steps that, individually, would be no big deal, but that, taken in groups of twenty or more, terrify me. This is pure overwhelm – the same type of overwhelm that strikes many writers when they look at the whole of what they're trying to achieve. Experiencing that overwhelm in the physical world is educational because it really points out the illogicality of the fear. (Which sometimes helps dissipate it.)
4) Sometimes, when climbing, I encounter a patch and think, “Wow, that's pretty scary.” And then I promptly get scared. Pay attention to the sequence: first I have the thought, and only then experience the emotion! This happens all the time in writing, when people arbitrarily label various writing projects as “easy” (versus “hard”), or “a trivial side project” (versus “my important, 'real' work”). Then, they get hung up only on the parts they've designated “hard” or “important.”
Other times, though, I'll be preoccupied with my thoughts and only realize I'm on a scary patch after I'm halfway down or up it. That's yet more proof of how often we manufacture our own fears. As my teacher Jerry Weinberg said, “the problem isn't the problem; the problem is your reaction to the problem.”
The scary episodes also remind me of how strong an emotion fear is. When I come to one of those scary patches, my body can literally freeze. It's a very different experience from, say, “reluctance” or “aversion,” two much less intense states we commonly confuse with fear.
When you procrastinate, you are truly afraid – terrified. Some writers are aware of the depths of their terror, but most of us are in denial. We can use deductive reasoning, however, and conclude that the very fact that we wish to freeze (via procrastination or a block) indicates we are in terror.
Of course, climbers have it easier than writers because there is only one possible response to a “freeze” on a mountain: to keep going, if only in baby steps. Otherwise, you're simply stuck. Writers, in some ways unfortunately, have more choices, and that can slow their progress.
4) Climbing has also taught me the value of having a good partner, and what constitute effective support.
So, you should have a hobby. Choose something that honestly delights you, and not something (e.g., something related to home or property maintenance) you are only doing out of obligation. You will learn lessons that will speed your writing.