Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Outside Hobbies

Do you have hobbies outside of your writing life? Tell about them. Do they feed your writing life? Do they get your mind off your current projects and their attendant frustrations? Do they satisfy a different part of you than is satisfied by your writing?

From Frank

Like most everyone, I have multiple interests. I'm certain some of those interests overlap with those of my panel-mates - reading, for one. In much the same vein, good movies and television. (As a side note that could be a whole other rabbit hole of a blog post, my threshold for giving my time to a book, film, or TV show that isn't excellent has lowered significantly in the last decade. I wonder if it is the same for others, and if the dynamics of why are similar to my own... but I'll save that for when it is my turn to provide the questions again)

For entertainment, I also enjoy playing a variety of different games on my computer. I lean toward the more strategic and thinking styles most of the time but sometimes a romp through a crash/bang shoot 'em up is kinda fun. Role-playing adventures are also high on my list, if the setting is interesting to me.

The pandemic also ushered in playing D&D via Zoom with some family members. It's fun and a nice excuse to socialize.

Martial arts and fitness have come in and out of my life at various times and in various forms. Right now, they manifest in the form of hitting the gym, the heavy bag, and walking/running/biking (and hopefully kayaking soon).

I got my history degree while I was a working cop, taking advantage of the Army College Fund before the benefit expired. I absolutely love history. Much of my reading and podcast intake is centered around this topic. I know some people find it boring but to me it is chock full of exciting stories and fascinating people.

One hobby that I've been at for much longer than I realized is playing the guitar. Now, let's be clear right up front - I am not very good (and probably worse at singing). I simply don't seem to have the instinctual, innate abilities that lend themselves to musical success. In addition to a D-minus singing voice (F if you go above amateur status), I struggle with rhythm. That's sort of an important aspect of music, I've heard.

Seriously, though, it'd be a like a writer who struggles with syntax. Or dialogue. It's crippling if you want to achieve commerical success.

Luckily, I don't. I just want to strum a little. To learn songs I love. Mostly, I play guitar for myself. Sometimes my wife, who is gracious about it. Occasionally, when I visit my daughter, I'll play and we'll sing Springsteen songs together (The Boss is something we've long bonded over). I measure my guitar success by a) being able to make a song sound like a song, b) getting a little better as I go along, and c) having fun while playing it.

There's an additional element to it, though. Playing music is catharctic. It can bring joy but it can also leech out negative emotions. If I'm down, frustrated, angry, or whatever, playing music helps wash those emotions away. Or at least make them easier to cope with in the moment.

Sometimes - often! - writing does the same thing. It's a slower process, though. The only analogy I can think of is cooking. When it comes to catharsis, writing is like a slow cooker or, at best, an oven. Music is using a microwave. I always feel better, even after a song or three.

And there's one last piece, and this may be the most important one. I said I wasn't very good at playing guitar. That is objectively true. But it is also true that I have improved. See, music is one of those rare things in life where I am both naturally not very good at but also still love doing. Most of the time, the reverse is true. If I'm bad at something, I probably don't enjoy doing it. I suspect many people are that way. But playing guitar has been something that I love in spite of a lack of talent, in spite of not having a knack for it. Whereas writing is something I've always felt a natural affinity toward. It came easier, and effort yielded results more quickly. My guitar "success" (defined above) has been hard-won.

Because it has become such an integral part of my life - despite my shortcomings - I can honestly say that the answer to the follow up questions at the top of the page is yes to all three. 

Yes, music feeds my writing life. I have a long-simmering novella that features music heavily. And I included a fictional Concert for Freedom in my alternative history novel, An Unlikely Phoenix, which is set in 2028. (I'll give you one guess which then 79-year-old musician makes an appearance.)

Yes, playing guitar takes my mind off my current WIP and the frustrations it might be causing (along with any life might be causing as well).

And yes, it satisfies a part of me that writing does not (as well as satisfying some of the same needs in a different way).

Anyway, here's "Wonderwall." (*)

*******************TIME FOR SOME [MORE -ed.] BSP!*****************************

My first Stanley Melvin story will be released on August 17, 2021 from PI Tales.

In Hallmarks of the Job, meticulous private investigator Stanley Melvin likes to keep his work grounded in reality, not at all like the classic detective novels he has read incessantly since childhood. But his best friend and annoying neighbor Rudy quickly points out that his routine “cheater” case is rapidly taking on all of the features that Stanley steadfastly insists are mere fictional tropes of the genre.

As you can see, this novella is being paired with a story from Michael Bracken, so I am in good company!

Stanley was a fun character to write. I have a couple more adventures in mind for him down the road, so if it turns out you like him, he'll be back eventually!

(*) I don't know how to play "Wonderwall" and refuse to learn it. I don't know why I'm stubborn about this but whatever. Anyway, here's "Nebraska."

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