Hobbies that Inform or Improve my Writing


Notice: I did not say OTHER hobbies. Writing is no hobby.

If you want other people to take your writing seriously, you have to take it seriously first. Writing is my job. It may not pay me very much right now (which is the #1 reason it is so hard for others to view it as a job), but people do all kinds of jobs that don’t pay. Whether it’s volunteering for the library, school, church, or community, most people do some kind of work for free – or they have at some point in their lives. Often, those “jobs” can turn into employment. If you volunteer at the library for long enough, they may offer you a position when it becomes available. The same goes for church or school. I take writing seriously and call it a job in the hopes that someday, someone will say, “Hey, you do this job really well. Let me pay you to do it!”

A pipe dream, I know.

Now that we’ve established the writing – paid or unpaid – is a job, we can discuss hobbies. Many creative people direct their strengths into one area while dabbling in others. For me, writing has always been my creative focus. However, I have been known to paint, draw, and sing. I don’t do these things nearly as much these days as I once did, but I can still utilize those hobby skills to inform my job – writing.

My MFA program at Spalding University has an Interrelatedness of the Arts component, which encourages students to view fine art, listen to musical compositions, and attend plays with the present mind of the reader. I think that’s just a fancier way they have of saying that writing does not exist in a vacuum. Creation and content of all types are continually speaking to each other, and these are just some of the things they might be saying.

Drawing teaches the artist to pay attention to detail. Every little line is a choice the artist makes, choosing to make things look one way or another. I find this is especially true when it comes to people: faces, body shapes, poses, expressions, and body language. If you’ve never tried drawing, or never thought about these things, give it a try! The focus might just teach you a new way to look at detail and description in your writing.

Painting is similar to drawing, but I tend to bring a freer hand to a brush than a pencil. Painting for me is about the atmosphere of the piece; the overall theme. What is the color theme (cool or warm) and what tone does that bring to the piece? What kind of feelings are evoked by the piece, and why? Is it meticulously crafted with a tiny brush, so you can see each blade of grass, or is it spread freely over the canvas with broad brush strokes and bold designs, capturing the essence of the subject rather than the exact likeness? What would happen if you thought about your novel or story in terms like this?

Music is a bit different than these. Although you can’t see the sound of music as you can a work of art or a paragraph, music has more in common with creative writing than you’d think. Unlike visual art, music progresses. There is a beginning, middle, and end to every piece of music, and most pieces have a midpoint and a climax as well. Why do those words sound familiar? We use them all the time when talking about plot and story. Orchestral soundtracks or piano pieces are especially useful to me in thinking about the progression of a scene or a story. Try listening to Hans Zimmer’s “Now We Are Free” from the soundtrack of the movie Gladiator, or “Batman Begins, Film Score.” You might also choose music from The Chronicles of Narnia, Pirates of the Carribean, TRON, The Last of the Mohicans, or Jurrasic Park. (I’ll do another post, or a video, soon on what music I listen to while writing!) Notice the rising and falling “action” of the piece, the midpoint, the climax, and the conclusion.

Walking or hiking outside is the last hobby that I believe influences my writing. Although walking is not an act of creation, it is the art of learning to observe Creation. As writers, we must notice small things with large meanings. We must see beauty in the everyday. We must see the extraordinary in the commonplace. The outdoors is the best place I know to do this. When I have problems with a piece I am writing, I go for a walk.

Let me know if you try any of these or if you have other hobbies that have influenced and/or informed your writing.

Favorite Books for Spring

PicMonkey Collage

Springtime brings so much with it from a bounce in your step to a breeze in your hair to a song in your heart. There’s a feeling that can only be described as spring, or perhaps the longing for a true spring on sunny February days before the cold has completely gone like we are having now. What can we do when we want spring so badly but we can’t have it quite yet?

We read, of course! If you’re itching for the perfect book to read this spring, a book that will sing of the season as you do, try the ones below.


The Iridescence of Birds: A Picture Book about Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan – This picture book about Matise is full of delicate springtime colors that make me want to sing like the birds. The entire book is only two sentences long, but it is lovely in its simplicity and delightful in its message. Parents and educators will also appreciate the educational component as the book explores the life and works of Matisse in the most poetic way imaginable.

1328751On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole – I’m not sure this book is too well known, but I think it should be someone’s life goal to change that. This picture book follows a young girl who grows tired of the grassy green lawn at her house that looks just like the grassy green lawns of all her neighbors. Nothing much happens in her lawn, and it isn’t very interesting. All that changes when she convinces her father to leave part of the yard to grown the next time he mows. From there she decides to plant a tree and even put in a pond. The family’s boring old yard quickly becomes a beautiful park, as well as the envy of all the neighbors – who begin to plant trees of their own. Again, the educational element of this book makes it a great pair for learning about ecosystems or permaculture.

140212The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis – Nevermind the snowfall on the cover, this is my number one book for springtime. Why? “Wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight. At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death. When he shakes his mane, spring shall come again.”



272752Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman – I think I have mentioned this book on the blog before, but I just love it so much! This tiny book tells the big story of how a community garden is begun and cultivated in a vacant city lot. Each chapter follows a different character and the book truly shows the value of our connection with the earth and with each other.



402032The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett – A list of springtime books would be incomplete without this classic. I love my copy of Mary Lenox’s story like an old friend, as I remember the wonder with which I read it for the first time. That first desire for a bit of earth in the spring which is the rain falling on the sunshine is etched in the memory of many children, for in no season more than spring are we aware of the Magic all around us. This beloved book tells the story of the awakening earth and the awakening heart.


I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – This book makes my spirits soar in the same way the spring does, which means I’ve probably talked about this one on the blog before, too. Everyone should read this charming story, but especially writers. To read Cassandra’s diary is to meet a friend and have long, late night conversations with her, finding that you are alike in all of your fears and aspirations.


You know what time it is…


So I’ve been pretty silent this October on You Know What, but it’s time to shatter the stillness.

National Novel Writing Month is almost here!

While I will be participating and MLing for Michigan: Elsewhere, I want to share that my goal this year is not 50,000 words. My list right now includes: library stuff, teaching stuff, thesis stuff, residency, and a 12 hour Star Wars marathon because Star Wars. 50k is pretty unachievable against all that. However, I have a full outline for a new story that I’m really excited about, and my goal is to finish a complete draft. That’s enough to make me happy! If you are debating whether or not to participate due to hectic schedules or crazy lives, delay no longer. 50k is the end, but the means are more important. Write what you can and at the end of the month be happy that you have more than you did on Halloween.

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that nobody cares how much you write. If your final wordcount is less than 50k, no one will shake a head or wag a finger. It’s just about having fun and making friends, and a busy schedule is no reason to miss out on great stuff like that.

What is your goal for the month? 50k? Or something lower (or higher!)? Share your tips and tricks with fellow Wrimos, and find a first-timer to encourage!

NaNoWriMo Cometh

NaNoWriMo: Why Serious Writers Should Promote Rather Than Dismiss

NaNoWriMo: A Pantsing Planner