By a show of hands, who here today is a writer who fits their passion for storytelling into the spare spaces of their life?
Yeah, me too! In fact, there was a time when writing was ALL I did during my free time because it was all I wanted to do. I was so laser-focused on completing my first novel and developing my new author platform that it defined everything about me. Weekend plans usually revolved around my need to meet word counts. I’d lug my laptop with me on trips so I could edit during downtimes. I’d eschew movie nights in favor of building aesthetic boards for my characters. I authored in the evenings. I authored in the early mornings. I was set on the idea that if writing was going to only be a hobby, then it was going to be my only hobby. Sure, that level of determination sounds like a great recipe for success, but the end result more often comes out of the oven tasting like burn-out.
When it comes to most things in life, balance is the key to true harmony, be it weather, nutrition, finances, or how many cats one person can own. I believe this also applies to how we spend our free time. Having a singular hobby for which we are desperately passionate and focused is admirable but it can also be counterproductive, i.e, it can lead to the aforementioned burn-out. While I do advocate for persistence when it comes to authoring goals, I want to be clear that it doesn’t mean writing should be your ONLY pastime. In fact, it’s not only healthy to diversify your interests, but it can also improve your storytelling skills. Here are a few benefits to nurturing non-writing hobbies:
Provides a much needed mental and physical break from writing. I know, I know…you never get tired of writing. You prefer to live in the worlds of your books than the real world. But, isn’t your butt hurting right now? Mine is! A non-writing hobby, particularly an outdoor hobby, will get your body AND mind moving and engaged in the corporeal world around you. I know you may not like to hear it, but being outside is good for you. Getting away from your desk and into nature can be particularly helpful if you find yourself stuck on a plot point or dreading another round of copy editing. Think of it like a reset button. The best part is that getting that regular shot of endorphins can be as easy and close to home as container gardening on your patio or bird-watching in your neighborhood, or as adventurous and strenuous as weekend trail hiking or volunteering to guide sight-seeing tours in your city.
Fuels your imagination. It’s true—the more experiences you have, the more you have to write about! I’m not talking earth-shattering experiences, either; no need to go sky-diving or climb Mount Everest, though if those happen to be on your bucket list, have at it! Even low-key pastimes—like coin collecting, breadmaking, fencing, or operating a ham radio—can enhance the depth of your experiences and the breadth of your knowledge, which in turn can enrich your worldbuilding. I personally think the best non-writing hobbies are those that are creative, productive, or educational in nature, because they engage your mind and challenge you to think in new ways. And of course, those experiences can also be folded into your stories through character traits or plot devices. They might even lead to new story ideas: “While fiddling around on his friend’s wireless radio equipment one night, a baker stumbles upon a coin antiquities heist being planned by the Olympic fencing team.” Well, maybe not that story…
Makes you more interesting and well-rounded. Tell me what sparkles more—a two-sided diamond or one that is multifaceted? Having more interests means you are more dimensional and more…well, interesting. This may not rank high on your list of stuff to care about, but imagine one day being asked to do an author interview. Of course you’ll be expected to talk about your writing, but wouldn’t it be grand to also chat about your other side hobbies and how they inspire your writing and inform your personality? I know one writer who creates custom cocktails for books and another who has taken up beekeeping. Beekeping! Non-writing pastimes also provide dynamic content for posts on social media platforms, which can help your readers better connect with you as a real human with a real life. Sure, they might follow you for your stories and writing advice, but they’ll stay for your adventures in upcycling kitchen utensils into coat hooks!
On a final note, now that I’ve encouraged you to go out and diversify your pastime activities, remember what we said about balance? A multitude of experiences can make a phenomenal foundation for writing, but only if you actually sit down to write. That is, don’t get so wrapped up in those non-writing activities that you neglect your inner author! Don’t get me wrong…it’s fantastic if you’ve picked up radio operating and baking and coin-collecting, but if you don’t write that Olympic fencing team heist novel, who will?
Tell me about your non-writing interests and how they help your storytelling in the comments below!