Writing takes up a good portion of my time. I write for a living. I write as a hobby. But believe it or not, I have a lot of interests that don’t seem to pertain to writing on the surface.
For me, writing isn’t just a hobby – it’s a lifestyle.
It seems like each hobby I engage in somehow ties back into my writing. And I like it that way. You don’t have to always be writing to grow as an author.
Some of the following hobbies I’ve only simply dabbled in, others, I’ve completely immersed myself in at some point or another. But each of these diversions allows you to distract yourself from your writing (even just for a little while) while still enhancing your craft.
If you haven’t tried meditation before now, you’ll be amazed that it isn’t something you tried sooner. If you are already a seasoned meditator, you understand just how beneficial it can be.
Meditation is a form of mind-training and not only focuses your thoughts but gives you insights to yourself that you would’ve never experienced before. Here are just a few of the benefits you will gain from meditation:
- Stress Reduction
- Increased Understanding of Your Emotions
- Reduced Anxiety
- A Deeper Sense of Compassion
- Enhanced Mental Stamina
Spending just 15 minutes per day in quiet thought and reflection is all it takes to immerse yourself in meditation. You may feel silly at first (I know I did) but before long, you’ll understand just how useful meditation really is.
In addition to calming your mind, meditating allows you to tap into your creativity in ways you never imagined. When you break free from overthinking, you open your mind to inspiration and creative thought processes.
For beginners, I recommend starting with simple breathing exercises, but there are so many other types of meditation to explore:
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Primordial Sound Meditation
- Transcendental Meditation
- Guided Meditation
- Focused Attention
There really is a meditation practice for everyone and every schedule. Different types of meditation affect your brain differently. But when you begin practicing meditation, you heighten your overall awareness, allowing your brain to think more creatively.
The study of words is a fascinating subject for writers and can directly affect the way that your write. Learning how the Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon, and Germanic origins of the words we use, not only expands our vocabulary but allows us to use words for a more meaningful impact.
To begin casually studying etymology, utilize a good etymological dictionary. I like using this one the most. With the search function, you can access the meaning of the word in addition to its linguistic origins.
Once you know the root of a word, you can trace it back to its earliest origin, finding the root words that combined to form it. This may not sound exciting in itself, but the applications of this knowledge will guide you in both your writing and your speech.
It goes even further than that too. Etymology can be used to not just study any word, but names too. If you write any kind of fiction, you’ve probably experienced the struggle of naming a character. You know that any old name won’t do, it has to capture the very essence of what makes your character unique. The website Behind the Name is an excellent resource for first names and surnames for your character, with vasts amounts of information on the origins, meanings, and variations of different names.
You can have a lot of fun with etymology. There are various blogs and podcasts you can check out where you can read about and listen to people’s adventures in this field.
Blogs About Etymology:
- The Etyman™ Language Blog – Adventures in Etymology and Language
- Oxford Etymologist
- Omniglot Blog – Linguistic Musings
Podcasts About Etymology:
Just learning a few basic roots allows you to decipher unknown words when you come across them. Expanding your vocabulary through etymology makes your writing look and sound smarter and gives you more confidence and authority as an author.
3. Candid Photography
Maybe it’s because I grew up with a mom who loved scrapbooking, but posed photography has been a personal pet peeve of mine since the dawn of time. For one thing, I never know what to do with my face. And getting your smile to look natural on command? Forget about it!
Enter candid photography. When you snap a picture without the subject’s knowledge, you’ve just taken a candid photograph. The beauty of a candid photo is the ability to capture a sincere moment that honors the genuine attributes of your subject. No cheesy smiles. No forced poses. Just the essence of who a person actually is.
To get started with candid photography, select a camera to use. It could be your phone camera (doesn’t draw as much attention) or a professional digital or film camera.
Now, familiarize yourself with your subjects. Candid photography is not about voyeurism. It’s fine to take candid shots of people from a distance. But when mingling with a group, you want the people around you to be comfortable enough with your presence that they can act naturally.
To become a prolific candid photographer, take your camera with you everywhere. Learn to shoot from the hip, with your flash off, and using a long zoom. Take lots of photos. Because of the nature of candid photography, not every shot is going to turn out.
It’s also essential to follow a few guidelines when shooting candid photography:
- If someone asks you to delete a photo of them, honor their request.
- Get your subjects’ permission to take candid shots. While most US states don’t legally require this, it’s just common courtesy.
- Check if the setting you’re in has any rules about photography. While photography is allowed in most public spaces, some venues may have rules against it.
So what do you do with all those candid shots? When you’re taking candid shots of family or friends, file the good ones away to use for gift-giving purposes in the future. A touching candid shot of your parents can become a perfect anniversary present when the occasion calls.
As a writer, I sometimes use candid photography as a way to document settings or occasions I want to recall later on – for details pertaining to material I’m working on. Street photography, for instance, can be great for character inspiration.
Getting started with candid photography is relatively inexpensive and easy. You don’t have to possess a lot of skill at first and the hobby is something that will grow with you the more you do it. This guide to candid photography is a great place to begin.
4. Antique Collecting
Time to come clean – I’m slightly obsessed with this hobby. Twenty years ago, I never would’ve guessed that I’d become an antique collector. But what began as a passion for history led to my love of antiques.
Collecting antiques is a hobby that can appeal to almost anyone – history nerd or not. Basically any interest you already enjoy has its own counterpart in the world of antiquity. If you read comic books, you’re probably aware that they have existed long enough to have a collectible aspect. If you’re a musician you might be aware of the market for vintage amps and guitars.
I’m non-discriminatory when it comes to antiques and have found myself collecting everything from vintage kitchen utensils to sewing patterns from the Jazz Age. But here are the antique categories I find myself drawn to the most:
- Furniture – My mid-century modern bedroom set came from the mother of a friend after she passed away. The desk that I’m working at as I type this is a dark wood secretary style that belonged to one of my grandmother’s dearest friends. In fact, I haven’t bought myself a new piece of furniture since my first apartment when I was in college. Once I started acquiring antique furniture I never wanted to shop at IKEA again.
- Books – This one might be the most obvious choice for anyone who is a reader or a writer, but nevertheless, it is my most priceless of antique collections. It all started with an 1849 copy of a McGuffey Speller I found at an estate sale when I was 10 years old. Since then, my library of antique books has grown enormous and I love them more than my own (non-existent) children.
- Clothing – Something about slipping into a vintage jacket or dress makes me feel like a time traveler. The leather messenger bag I’ve carried around for the last 4 years is both practical and stylish and even has a compartment for a pistol and bullets (which I use to hold pens). For $7 at Value Village, I consider that bag one of the best purchase I’ve made in my adult life.
- Art – What makes art such a significant part of society, is the emotion it evokes from those experiencing it. The sheer volume of art that has been produced throughout history makes for a vast selection of work to choose from when antiquing. You might not be acquiring anything from a famous or notable artist (not to start out anyways), but don’t think that you won’t find a quality piece that speaks to you – despite being created by an unknown amateur.
- Ephemera – Memorabilia that was intended to only last for a short time is considered ephemera: plane tickets, concert stubs, neighborhood newsletters, and theater programs for example. What makes ephemera so special to me is that it transports you to another time and place, giving you a small glimpse into the way people used to live. Two favorites from my personal collection include a handbook for women’s birth control methods (1935) and a 1957 welcoming pamphlet from my hometown’s newcomer service.
Becoming an antique collector doesn’t require a lot of upfront expertise. You’ll learn along the way what to look out for and what complements your unique taste. Collecting antiques doesn’t require a lot of money either. Parts of my collection were items passed on to me by older relatives or were sitting on the side of the road with a “free” sign on them. Some good places to start hunting for antiques:
- Thrift Stores – The majority of antiques I’ve bought have come from thrift stores. You’d be surprised at some of the treasures that get donated. My favorite thrift stores are the ones where I know my purchase is helping a good cause, like my local humane society’s thrift store and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
- Estate Sales – Talk about a goldmine for neat antiques. It’s amazing the stuff that people collect over the years, and as a bonus, estate sales are great for getting a tour of some incredible older homes. Check Craigslist or your local newspaper for upcoming sales.
- Antique Shows – At an antique show or convention, you pay an entrance fee and get to shop from hundreds of vendors all at one time. These can be a slight bit overwhelming (I only got through half of my first one), but some of the most unique pieces I’ve found have come from events like these.
As a writer, I think the coolest part of antique collecting is that each piece has its own story to tell. And the thrill of curating your collection piece-by-piece becomes a journey of its own.
Did you know that it’s a proven fact that hiking stimulates creativity? Not only does it help with creative thinking, hiking allows your brain to generate new ideas more easily.
I’ve been hiking since before I could walk (really, my parents used to strap me into a baby pack) and I still experience that rush of excitement every time I’m out in nature. Whether I’m embarking on a new trail or a beloved favorite there’s really nothing that compares to that feeling.
Birds calling. Brooks babbling. The breeze hitting your face. Exploring the great outdoors has inspired more than a few stories of mine.
I like to make an event out of every hike. Usually, I have a plan for what I’m going to do once I’ve reached a certain destination. Even loop hikes generally have some sort of landmark or checkpoint of interest.
Once you’re at that point, take some time to chill:
- Have a Picnic – I once packed up fancy cheese plate complete with fruits, nuts, and a growler of beer to enjoy river-side.
- Write – I always bring a small journal and sketchbook in my backpack and take the time to jot down notes, which sometimes leads to an entire writing session if the inspiration strikes.
- Identify Plants or Wildlife – Learning to ID plants, birds, and other animals is a wonderful way enjoy the outdoors. Also, fall and spring mushroom hunting is another hobby all to its own.
- Hiking shoes or boots
- Long pants or convertible pants (No cotton or denim – think lightweight, quick-drying material like nylon)
- A water bottle
- First aid kit
The above are only a few suggestions. Before you set out on your first hike, it’s important to familiarize yourself with The Ten Essentials.
It may require a good deal of physical effort, but incorporating hiking into your life is rewarding for both the physical and mental benefits.
6. Lucid Dreaming
In 2015 I had a lucid dream that launched me into, what I can only describe as, an infatuation. It was NaNoWriMo and I’d been fervently working on the first draft of my novel at the time.
That night I had an entirely lucid dream that was more vivid than any dream I’d had up to that point. And better yet, I was in complete control. I was walking around a town I had entirely created, and the dream characters I was interacting with were right out of the story I had been working on.
So what exactly is a lucid dream? According to Wikipedia, “A lucid dream is a dream during which the dreamer is aware of dreaming. During lucid dreaming, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over the dream characters, narrative, and environment.”
Dreams have always fascinated me and unbeknownst to myself, I’d been practicing a lot of lucid dreaming techniques since I was a kid:
- Keeping a dream journal
- Recognizing dream signs (things that seem out of place in the dream world and make you realize you’re dreaming)
- Living with episodes of insomnia episodes where I’d awaken in the middle of the night and be up for an hour or two before going back to bed (Wake Back to Bed technique)
It wasn’t until I experienced a lucid dream where I thought to incorporate my writing, though, that I realized the potential of utilizing lucid dreams to inspire storytelling.
Immediately, I started reading every resource I could find on lucid dreaming. I read Stephen LaBerge’s books, I joined a lucid dreaming forum, and I followed any blogs I could find on the topic.
I won’t lie, becoming a regular lucid dreamer took a lot of work. Learning to train your brain to wake up when your physical body is asleep doesn’t come naturally for most people.
Months passed before I could lucid dream several nights a week, instead of just once a month or so. It took lots of experimenting with different techniques before I found the right formula for myself.
Now that I’ve gained the ability to have Wake Induced Lucid Dreams (WILD), this is hands down my favorite hobby I’ve ever had! I don’t say that lightly either – because I really love to write. The beauty of lucid dreaming, though, is how complementary it is to writing.
In a lucid dream you can:
- Explore a world you’ve built from the ground up.
- Talk to characters you’ve created, ask them questions, better formulate what they look like.
- Build a time machine and travel through time.
- Take a tour of literally any setting you can think up: homes, landscapes, museums, space stations, you name it!
- Play out a scene from your current work in progress to gain a visual concept for how it should progress.
If you’ve ever had the delight of a fully stable lucid dream, you know what I’m talking about and why it’s so incredible. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, or you just want to learn more about the process, The World of Lucid Dreaming has some great resources for beginners.
As writers, I think discovering new hobbies is an inevitable consequence of research. We’re continually coming across new and interesting diversions and mastering them through the knowledge we gather on those topics.
What hobbies do you find yourself drawn to as a writer? Have you discovered any new hobbies through the course of your writing?