Monday, July 26, 2021

The Non-Writing Writing Life

 Q: 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 Susan


Absolutely. There may be writers who live solely for and within their writing, but that doesn’t sound healthy to me. I have grandchildren. I have cats. I have a garden. I also have friends, a love of music and fine art, a sometimes overly confident urge for creative cooking, and a travel itch. Do any or all of these feed my writing? They burn time and energy, and pull my focus away from writing on occasion, but at least a few of them do sort of feed my fiction. 


The only one that ties specifically to writing is travel. I write about places I love because I’ve spent time exploring them in some depth. Yes, I know the joke – you can write off your travel expenses, you lucky authors. My response is usually, ”Against what?”


Like so many young wives in my generation, I fell in love with Julia Child and her French cooking books, which are brilliant. The classic Burgundian dishes I learned to make do show up casually in my French mysteries, so I guess that could count as a positive answer to this week’s question. 


Gardening, I learned about a decade ago, is not merely a hobby to me. I have always had a garden, but the one I had at my last home was not at all satisfactory – all containers, not enough sun for much that I like to grow. A friend gave me a beautiful little illustrated book, in French, about a garden in Provence, and I could not look at a page without starting to cry. I put the book away but it ate at me. I woke up one day and said, “I have to have a garden.” And so I moved, bought a house with sunshine and dirt and have been happy in it for the past nine years. I don’t think it enhances my writing, but it makes me feel whole and it creates time when I’m living in the moment, which may free my subconscious to work on whatever I’m writing.


My interest in art did supply me with some great plot and character ideas for my Dani O’Rourke series along the lines of “art + money = crime.” I think I was a squeak ahead of the mainstream media in connecting the dots between Swiss bank accounts, international drug and stolen money, and the rocketing prices for art at the big auction houses. Small pat on the back. (Detail from Keith Haring painting at DeYoung museum_


The scary things are the weeks in which my writing output is what looks like a hobby. I need deadlines, I need agents tapping their feet impatiently, contracts with delivery dates, revisions in the works. Then, I can complain about the roses that need pruning, the concert I have to skip, the take-out pizza that has to sub for the quiche I planned to make from scratch. 


My hobbies are parts of my personality and integral to my life, just like writing. I need and use them all to live a full life. 

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