Authors Have Multiple Facets. Why It’s Necessary to Pursue Other Interests than Writing

399836_football_3Writers are people. And like all people, we’re complex, with lots of interests. This post today is to remind myself how important it is to pursue those other interests too, because they develop us into full, healthy people with numerous facets.

Being a full person who pursues multiple goals and interests is important for reasons that have nothing to do with writing. That said, having multiple facets never hurts when you need to develop a variety of characters.

It’s always fun when some of those facets don’t line up in an expected way.

FOOTBALL AND THE ACADEMIC

I’ve always loved learning and viewed learning as an adventure, so I did great in school. Totally overachieved. Had a good long-term memory with lots of knowledge of trivia. (I was even captain of my high school quiz bowl team back in the day. Good heavens, 10 years ago!)

This is the side of me that is probably most obvious when you meet me, especially when our relationship is an academic one, such as professor-student.

Well, my last year at Bama (Roll Tide!) I was enrolled in a course on narratology. It was a blast. The prof was a lot of fun. Really off the wall in his style and super-informal, which made all of us comfortable.

After class one day, a classmate and I were talking about the upcoming SEC Championship game against Florida. I had gotten tickets. We hadn’t realized “George,” the professor, was behind us, and he looked at me with this expression I can only describe as stupefaction.

“You like football?”

I told him I had grown up a fan of the New Orleans Saints, with a mother who was a rabid Saints fan, and I that I also loved the school team. (One of the best in the nation, historically speaking.)

George looked as dumbfounded as ever. I will never forget what he said next:

“It’s just not often you link the hyper-intellectual with the football fan.”

I still don’t know whether to consider that an insult or a compliment. But I will never forget the comment.

I guess you don’t link the “hyper-intellectual” with the football fan if your idea of a football fan is the stereotypical beer-guzzling, blue-collar worker who shouts obscenities at the team.

I happen to love the team spirit of rooting for “our boys.” And I love the strategy involved in American Football. Compared with some other sports a lot of strategy goes into each play, both on offense and defense.

THE SIDES OF ME THAT AREN’T ACADEMIC

So, there are lots of facets of me that aren’t connected with my fiction.

They keep me sane and help me approach my fiction with a wider horizon and a larger base of knowledge and personal experience.

I feel that they deepen my fiction. They make it more real and make it more of a personal reflection of who I am.

  • One of my favorite characters in my books grows up to be an academic and essayist. He is awesome. (I joke that if he were real I would totally be in love with his adult self, except that I know him well enough to realize I’m not the kind of woman he would be attracted to. I’m nothing like his wife!)
  • Learning Spanish and traveling to Spain influenced everything from Herezoth’s magic language to its architecture.
  • I’m one of those crazy cat ladies. No shame about it, either. One of my favorite characters in my first novel has a cat, and he features pretty prominently in a couple of scenes (one of which I totally ripped off from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Yeah, there’s a reason that book’s not published.)
  • I wrote a short story about football. And football being as militaristic as it is, it kind of helped me play-by-play some skirmishes in my fantasy novels. It helped me think about the importance of blocking when you’re trying to make an offense move, for instance.
  • I’m a very faith-filled person, and I’ve studied a lot of theology. This not only helped me craft some kind of a religion in Herezoth, but really helped me flesh out one character in particular, a woman who exemplifies what I try (and often fail) to live as faith.
  • I love, love, love little kids. The time I’ve spent with my nieces and nephews, watching them grow and develop, observing the way they talk and act, has really helped me develop kids as characters.

CHARACTERS NEED MULTIPLE FACETS TOO

On a related note, don’t forget that your characters, like you, should have multiple goals and pursuits. Multiple strengths and weaknesses.

Some of those facets can definitely be things people wouldn’t put together: like an academic bent and a weakness for the home team.

Some of the best moments in fiction are when different interests and goals enter into conflict. When one threatens another.

Striving to achieve a balance between life and work, between relationships and hobbies, is something we all struggle with. Why should your characters be any different?

So, what are some facets of you that those who have only known you a week won’t know? How have other interests influenced your writing?

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19 responses to “Authors Have Multiple Facets. Why It’s Necessary to Pursue Other Interests than Writing

  1. Such a relief to read this post as I’m also one who loves both sport, the ‘arts, especially writing, and a host of other things. It certainly seems like ‘specialisation’ is what is expected nowadays, even though I totally agree with you that we need to develop our various ‘facets.’.
    I would say tennis, sociology, swimming in the sea all year and, of course, family are among the big’ things that have dominated my life outside of, as well as within writing.

    • I love the way you talk about “specialization” being expected nowadays, because it’s so, so true. That was one of the things that drove me out of academia. While it’s good for professors to be experts in their specific field, branching out a bit is frowned upon. I thought that was unhealthy.

  2. I am a big hockey fan (Go Blues! Write if you get work!) and also a big fan of musicals (this Saturday I am going to see a touring company doing “South Pacific” and I intend to sing along with all of the songs) and those are two things not usually associated with writers, or associated with each other.

    However, I think that both of them help me as a writer. Hockey has helped me to understand group dynamics in a combat situation and how to keep a narrative with multiple characters in action balanced. Musicals help with my rhythm and language (I wrote much of Cannibal Hearts to the soundtrack of “Pippin”.)

    • That’s so cool, that hockey worked for you the same way football worked for me!

      I love musicals too. I am kind of (well, not kind of) obsessed with Les Miserables. I love Phantom and Wicked and the theater and showtunes in general, a whole whole lot πŸ™‚ Have a Pandora showtunes station.

  3. What a wonderful post. (I lived in Alabama, Huntsville to be exact and dated an Alabaman (?) for 6yrs so it was funny to read you went to school there. In the pic, I was like is that Tennessee? and Alabama?!)

    I speak from experience, it’s important to NOT get rolled up into just living your ‘discipline’ or job. I did it with Waldorf teaching and it was bad news bears for me.

    I think if you have varied and wider scope to life it can help make you a better if not more interesting person. Oh, yeah, folks are surprised I crochet, & like MMA…which reminds me, I should always be trying out something new! Cheers!

    • Varied and balanced is the key!!! I can’t believe you lived in Alabama…. that’s awesome, haha! Maybe it’s Alabamian? I’m not quite sure!

      Balance is SOOO important. It really is the key. I tend to struggle with that.I feel guilty for not working when I’m writing, and feel bad working because I’d rather be writing. But work is actually good, and can contribute a lot to personal development as well as development as an author πŸ™‚

  4. I like baseball. Used to play it as a kid. Go White Sox!!! I was a total tomboy. I used to play in the alley with the boys. My mom made me quit. Said it wasn’t ladylike. Sigh.

    I’m a faith-filled person too. Love kids though I don’t have any of my own.

    I crochet often. LOVE kung-fu movies with a passion.

  5. I’m not going to mention any of my hobbies here, because they’re far too lame, but I will say this: I admire the way you can crank out these blog posts all the time. You write a LOT of these things … frequently … and they’re all solid and relevant. It’s amazing.

    • thanks Matthew! I’m glad they resonate with you so much! πŸ™‚ It makes my day to hear you say that. I have a lot of free time on my hands, being unemployed at the moment and seeking work…. so I try to keep my blog going and growing to keep something good going on to keep me upbeat.

      And don’t worry, my hobbies are super lame too πŸ™‚ Some have come and gone, all fads that show my lameness, haha….

      • You’re welcome. Unemployed? I’m sorry about that… It’s cool that you attended college in Alabama. I live in Georgia, a short drive from the state line. I’m writing a book set in Alabama right now. (PS – I love to collect old VHS tapes from the 80s and admire the old commercials.)

        • thanks! VHS makes me feel so old. I’m old enough to remember it phasing out BetaMax (my Dad had a BetaMax player.)

          Alabama is one of a kind, for sure! πŸ™‚ I had a blast in Tuscaloosa. My family who went to LSU aren’t too happy I’m a Bama fan, and my nephew likes to tell me “Boo Bama!” (he’s 3), hahaha…. but Bama was great.

  6. I grew up in Birmingham, AL. Roll Tide! haha… and as for multiple facets, I was fortunate enough to attend a program–for my MFA in studio art–that encouraged cross and multidisciplinary work. Unfortunately for my job hunting, “specialization”–as someone mentioned earlier–is expected and highly desired, in and out of academia.

    • Specialization can be a real beast… I really don’t think it’s the be-all end-all or quite as healthy as people think. Holing yourself up with no “cracks” or way to branch out isn’t that good, I think.

      I considered an MFA but decided to go the Spanish route instead…. Roll Tide! Glad you dropped by today πŸ™‚

  7. So true – what would we have to write about if we didn’t do anything besides stare at a screen? I love gardening myself. I think it’s the perfect hobby for a writer and it counteracts all that sitting down. If you’re feeling like a ramble in Galway Bay you can join me here. http://www.gracelikestogarden.com
    All the best of luck with your writing and your hobbies! Grace

    • Oooh, I WISH I wasn’t stuck in a city so I could try to garden. It’s probably for the best in my case, though. I tend to kill every plant I try to keep alive. I have a black thumb.

  8. gracejolliffe

    So true – what would we have to write about if we didn’t do anything besides stare at a screen? I love gardening myself. Even though I’m recovering from serious leg fractures I still have to hobble out there and do it πŸ™‚ I enjoy it so much and get fresh ideas while I am doing it. I think it’s the perfect hobby for a writer and it counteracts all that sitting down. If you’re feeling like a ramble in Galway Bay you can join me here. http://www.gracelikestogarden.com
    All the best of luck with your writing and your hobbies! Grace

    • Aw man, I WISH I could garden!!! I’m horrible at it, unfortunately. I have a black thumb πŸ™‚ Really envy those people who are able to garden and grow beautiful (or delicious) things πŸ™‚

  9. Pingback: How Authors Should Sell Themselves, Not Their Work, On Social Media | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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