Hobbies that Inform or Improve my Writing

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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.

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Iron Belle

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If you live in Michigan, you might have seen (or heard?) the news about the “new” statewide trail that will be going in over the next few years. The Iron Belle Trail stretches from Ironwood at the west end of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle just outside Detroit. I’ve been waiting for news of places to do some real hiking for a year now, so I’m ecstatic!

I’m so excited, in fact, that I may or may not have set up a second blog to put trail news. Okay, yes, I did. Right now, at this link, you can find out about the Iron Belle, the North Country Trail, and a few guide books along with information about why there aren’t more.

Here it is: northcountryhike.wordpress.com

I’ll be updating there with news about the trails progress, our progress on the trail, and other relevant information.

Happy Trails!

Go West Young Ones: Rocky Mountain National Park

This summer as part of my internship, I got to go on what was likely a once-in-a-lifetime road trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. It was an amazing experience, and we have hundreds of beautiful photos – none of which do justice to the surreal, majestic feeling of being there for real. In spite of this, however, I want to share a handful of photos from the trip and say a few words about them. =)

It’s always surreal to come back from a trip like this, but looking back at these photos, I just feel blessed to have had this opportunity. Spiritual experiences somehow always feel stronger on a mountain top, and these mountaintops were about as high up as you can get in the US. These places are so beautiful in photographs that I want to go back and remind myself how much more lovely they were for real. It is hard  to face the reality that this extra loveliness will live on only in my memory, but reassuring to be reminded that the spiritual experiences of the mountaintop are accessible everyday.