Everyone should have a hobby.
I love music, but my feeble attempts to learn to play an instrument left me a trembling mass of embarrassed flesh and bone. I am a listener, not a player.
I listen to music while writing fiction, or when reading. In a sense, I’ve turned music into work. It’s crucial for me to rewrite and polish my stories in silence, so I know the writing is conveying the emotions, not the music I happen to be listening to while writing.
I love movies, and have done a few film and video projects over the years. I’ve been working on video in conjunction with my writing, in the form of advertising. Again, I’ve turned something I enjoy into an offshoot of my writing work.
I absorb visual media, and on an artist-friend’s advice, bought canvases, brushes and paints. I am untrained, but that didn’t stop me from just painting, for my own pleasure.
Many years ago a professional artist I worked with offered to give my paintings a look. He was a nice guy, so I didn’t fear he’d mock my attempts. He opened the folder, looked at the piece on top, and said, “You enjoy DOING it, don’t you?”
Maybe he was just being nice, but I don’t think so. He was being honest: He could tell I liked tossing colors on the canvas and seeing what happened.
The thing about painting without talent is there’s zero pressure. I haven’t painted in a long time, but when I did, I felt free, without the self-consciousness that sometimes comes when polishing, or the crippling self-criticism that stopped me from trying to play music.
Until the final few strokes, this was a failed attempt at some kind of Venice-like cityscape–this is the final version, but image it a few minutes before all the black was brushed on:
I stepped back from it, took a look, and then…turned it over:
It looked to me like a misty path through some dark woods, or rocks, with a mountain in the distance.
I dunno, it just looked kinda neat.
Do you like it? I don’t know.
I don’t care. I didn’t do it for you.
Unlike my writing, I didn’t make something to communicate to anyone else. I think this outlet helps my writing in a way no life experience or media input could.
So, in a way, this has been a post about writing.