Hobbies, Work, and Process

On this week’s theme, I wouldn’t say that I seek out new hobbies through writing. Rather, writing informs my extracurriculars, and my extracurriculars inform my writing.  Side note:  Labeling any productive activity as a “hobby” is a  loaded observation.

I consider hobbies to be the things we really care about that capitalism simultaneously tries to convince us are the reason we work so hard all day, and then also requires us to dismiss in favor of work that is productive to someone or something else. This frustrates me, but it also reminds me of important anarchist principles (I know, really? Something ELSE reminds me of important anarchist principles?). We don’t always work for pay. Sometimes we work, and we do hard, important, vital work for love.

Could the whole world survive on work done for love and need, for work done without coercion, work done in the spirit with which most of us pursue productive hobbies? I invite you to contemplate the possibility.

Anyway, my two main extra vocational activities are gardening and crochet.  I find myself writing about gardening a lot. The main thing I have learned from gardening is  seasonality and pacing. The world is not the same from day to day. Physical changes — new buds, new sprouts, bolting herbs that can no longer be used — mark transitions in time, and these change the world. They also change our perceptions of it, and perceptions of my characters too.  There is pretty much nothing in gardening that does not lend itself to writing; whether I describe my garden directly, or I soliloquize on nature based on my gardening, or I have my characters cultivate gardens, or simply use my new understanding to develop the pacing of novels: it all works.

I am reading “Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden” right now, and as its intro states, “A writer who gardens is sooner or later going to write a book on the subject-I take that as inevitable.”

My other major activity, crochet, does not collaborate with words nearly so easily. It does shape my understanding of the embeddedness of various elements of fiction, characters and events and words and paragraphs all crumbling into each other like stitches dependent on what comes before and what comes after, with a firm beginning and ending vital to keeping it all from unraveling. That’s more of an extended metaphor than an influence, now that I think about it.  But my side work has made me much more aware of physical processes of creation and development — of the “how things work” side of things.

I was always a very bookish person, full of ideas but low on concrete applications and knowledge.  Well, I still am bookish, but dabbling in these very physical realms has expanded my realms of knowledge a lot and made me a better writer in the process.

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