Writers Need Hobbies
Until an author gets published (and even afterward), I'm willing to bet that many of their friends, family, and acquaintances think their writing is just a hobby. After all, they have a real job to pay the bills, right?
Even if they're serious about getting published, beginning writers also may think of writing as something they only do on the side. They squeeze it into the "extra" hours of the day--on lunch breaks, early in the morning, late at night after everyone else has gone to bed. They're choosing to do write in their free time, and nothing may actually come of it, so that's pretty much a hobby.
Fifteen years ago, I was trying hard to write and sell short stories, but maybe not hard enough; it was just another activity. I was a big TV junkie, so I kept up on all the shows I was watching and then fitting in the writing wherever I could. The shift happened when I started treating writing like an actual job and cut back dramatically on the amount of TV I absorbed. And the number of video games I played, and the number of books I read. Prioritizing writing over other activities for pure fun, like photography, painting, watching movies, making movies, building LEGOs, etc., seems like a solid path to becoming a professional writer if you don't have the luxury of quitting your day job.
Eventually, if you succeed, then writing really does become a job, more often a second job. Once you start publishing, if you're lucky, you have contracts and deadlines and a steady flow of revisions and copy edits and page proofs. And e-mails, and interviews, and signings. Trust me, those are all great things, but I'll be honest--it's also work. Between a day job and a kid, these days there's isn't much time for anything else, and sometimes writing doesn't seem as fun as it used to. So lately I've decided to schedule fun: activities that I enjoy that are just for me. In short, I needed a hobby!
So I've actually gotten back into an old hobby, playing and collecting retro video games, mostly for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). I already had a sizable collection from back in the day (yep, I'm old!), but I've started organizing, cleaning, and most importantly playing those dusty old carts--and acquiring some new ones. (If you're curious, you can watch me play some NES games live on YouTube, though I had to take a brief hiatus because of--you guessed it--writing deadlines.)
I just restored a 30-year-old NES so it functions like new, and I even picked up an old tube TV to play it on. I've been tracking down an assortment of rare controllers. I'm definitely going down the rabbit hole on this! No one cares if I play Nintendo games or not, and there are plenty of more productive things I can do with my time, but I think it's been good for me... And it's helped me appreciate and make better use of the time I devote to writing again. (Video games have also provided fodder for a couple of stories I've been working on, which you'll hear more about later.)
I've always thought that it's important to be passionate about something outside of your work, so you aren't purely defined by your job. Once upon a time, for me that was writing, but now that I write full-time (at my day job, in addition to my fiction projects), I needed something completely unrelated to enjoy. The only tricky thing is carving out time for fun, when it's the easiest thing to give up when you're busy. Aside from sleep, that is.
Some of my writing friends also like to game, and they record podcasts, knit, build models, design T-shirts, play music, act, and more. I'd like to ask all the other writers out there: What hobbies do you have? What do you do for fun when you aren't writing, and do you think it maybe makes you a better person and/or writer in the long run? Or do you barely have time enough for writing these days?