This is a continuation of my epic journey on picking the ultimate hobby. You know, the thing you do in your spare time… and derive satisfaction from… like reading wordpress posts! In Part 1 of the post which can be read here, i discuss how and why I devised a system to rate possible hobbies. They had to meet the tests of 1) regularity and 2) spare time. I then proceeded with rating photography (0/2), Movies (0.5/2) and Reading (0/2) effectively narrowing the race down to 2 contenders- writing & learning. In this post, I will discuss writing and come closer to the epic conclusion to my journey.
My take on this: We learn to write at a young age. Oh and I mean write write… you know, past the basic alphabet. Picture a 10 year old. Now picture him/her in english class where they are taught how to write a letter. Well, I don’t have any kids and young people these days probably don’t learn that anymore. Maybe they are taught to write emails. I wouldn’t know- I am not good at interacting with children…
would you look at that? barely 100 words in and I have already gone off track!
But that little piece of writing tells you more about my style than any explanation I can provide. I frequently go off on a tangent and make a remark that bears little relevance to the topic at hand. Is it planned? No. Do I try and change it? No. I merely write without a script. Even when I have a general plan of what a story is going to be like, I prefer to let ideas flow through rather than structure them. (This is likely why my papers at college could easily exceed the word count)
So… I am not a big believer in structure in my writing. Why is this important? Well, the lack of a structure means I can write whenever even if i barely have a topic in mind. The narrative will flow. I am confident! This is literally the opposite of writer’s block.
Back when I was little however, I was very fomulaic in my approach. I would do what the teacher said and fail miserably. Write a letter, follow the format. Write and essay… follow a format. All of this was boring- and the few times i excelled was when I went off script. I vividly remember this time in school when I was competing for a speaking competition. Sure I had a paper with a structured response, but when I went up on stage, my mind drew a blank. I had forgotten what I had written. Instead of reading my essay however, I just went through instinct and spoke my mind. I managed to get through the time limit and snag a prize… i also learnt- my lack of structure could be an asset.
In university, I wrote my first ‘story’. I was horrible. Really Horrible! Sorry friends who read it and said it was great. 10 years later, the wiser, more mature me thanks you for not bursting my bubble… but my writing back then was atrocious. It was cliche ridden and had a heap of grammatical errors. It was also never edited… draft number one was the only draft ever! What is impressive however was that I always wrote in short bursts… this is important. I wrote in a span of a weekend… and sometimes just overnight.
As a hobby then, I needn’t really consider writing. I have an active blog, I never have to plan or worry about my content… and in my personal life, i write letters to friends (thanks for suffering through them) that certainly qualify as regular and spare time activities. All my other activities, the searches I do on the internet, the learning, the reading, the music or movies I watch… all of them provide ideas that I later write about. See where this is going?
Writing is already my hobby!
Is Writing the ultimate hobby I was looking for?
Well, this is a point where my 2 tests seem to fail me. Clearly writing scores a 2/2. What could do better? Should I have abandoned my search or abandoned my test?
Note that in my rationale, picking the ultimate hobby was akin to doing the impossible. In my spare time I had to achieve nothing short of a miracle. I wanted success and glory… and fame. Why not dream for the impossible? What was holding me back? And so… if I was to invest in writing… I had to put in the effort. I had to build my characters, think about plotlines… really improve my grammar and perfect my art of story-telling. I wasn’t going to call writing my ‘ultimate hobby’ and then do a half-assed job of it. This was going to be my claim to fame.
Yeah, so the bar was set pretty damn high. Would writing have won? You have probably worked out my answer already. No.
Why writing did not win… right now
Have you all watched the TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert? The link is below… A talk that like really is problem for me. Not that I think Elizabeth Gilbert is ‘creative’ or ‘a genius’… Well, her talk actually asks us to separate the myth from the reality… to accept that creativity is something ineffable. But, deep down, the process that good and great writers go through to achieve that brilliance is daunting. Imagine the effort that writing an excellent novel takes? Months of writing drafts, editing, living your characters? And I don’t even mean epic’s like Game of Thrones or a complex novel like ‘Cloud Atlas’… If you ignore the successful books… how hard is it to write a book that in the end no one reads? How many wannbe writers and script writers are there? Can I, with my write-without-thinking-attitude ever hope to compare?
I certainly do try… there are many failed start’s of what I would consider my best works… where the idea of the story is brilliant (even if i do say so myself!) and yet the stories have been abandoned. The reason for this has been that I felt I was faking it. There was no way I could write a story of a 9 yr old girl who writes a book called ‘Damn Theory’ and then goes on a road trip across America with her editor- a national hero who saved a plane from a terrorist attack. I feel like a fake because 1) I have never travelled across America and 2) I barely know what a 9 yr old thinks like. Oh, yes, I was 9 once, but i didn’t keep a very good record of what my thoughts were like. Pity I was never a diarist.
The answer lies in experiences. In the past 2 years, while I was in Melbourne, Australia pursuing my masters degree in business… a few things happened. 1) I met awesome people from all walks of life I wouldn’t have run into before. 2) I exposed myself to new types of reading and writing. I might say the answer lies in travel, and to an extent that is true… but it also means just meet more people and grow the hell up. I call the years I spent playing video games… ‘my lost decade’ for a reason. I could have done so much more with my life.
This transformed the way I approach my writing now. I still do not need to ‘plan’ my work… a basic concept can easily result in a 100 word essay… but I audit and I do refine my work. I have also decided that this thing that Elizabeth Gilbert calls, the ‘elusive genius’, you can’t fake it. But you can learn to harness it by absorbing the right experiences and living life.
Am I saying writing isn’t my ultimate hobby? Yes.
Someday however, I think I will be able to revisit that and say- I am ready now… let’s take a vacation, got to Paris and work on putting together… a novel. Until then, short bursts of creativity will keep this blog alive… but the search for the ultimate hobby… continues.
Thank’s for reading. The concluding part… tomorrow.