Authors are jealous custodians of any idea that could possibly turn into a story, be it a book, a short tale, a podcast, or a blog post. “What if…?” is our friend, and “What happens if you turn that around?” is our favorite mental yoga.

Any idea–for a foodie mystery, alternative historical fiction, a dystopian coming of age novella–deserves our consideration, and thus when the notion of writing a book about writing befell me, I gave it a spin. What do I wish somebody had told me as a debut author that I took fifty books to figure out for myself? What are the prose tweaks that have done the most to polish my stories with the least effort?

What are the quirks unique to the writing industry that all the lawyering or single-mom-ing in world did not prepare me for? Did I leave any do-overs undone?

I’ve begun drafting all that stuff, in no particular order. Some of it reads like posts cribbed from this blog, some of it is closely related to workshop presentations I’ve given, and some of it is material that I hope spares another author a few bad days or some self doubt.

I am enjoying the heck out of this project. I think about it far more than I work on it, but when I do turn my focus on writerly things, these topics give me a way to be an author even if I don’t have a work of fiction to occupy me. To a small degree, the “writer book” project is telling my story, and in another sense, it’s just messing around–no pressure, no deadlines, no  preconceived expectations. I’m not developing the book with an eye toward, “Who’s my target audience, what’s my residual message?”

Lady Violet Attends a Wedding — Book TwoI’m noshing along, thinkin’ ’bout things, filling up some hours while I wait for my fiction project to finish its nap. The work is restful, enjoyable, and interesting. This is the same mindset with which I approached the Lady Violet Mysteries, and those turned out pretty well, considering how much fun I had writing them.

Hobby projects aren’t much encouraged in our society. We’re to be working or playing or engaged in self-care, which usually means something akin to work that we don’t get paid for but had better see to if we want to keep working. We are not encouraged to pursue what fulfills us, particularly if our pursuit defies schedules, outlines, and–sing it with me–monetization, but why is that? Monetization for whom? Why not prioritize happy-fication?

One of my sisters has tackled playing the organ later in life (Maire was always one to take on a challenge). My friend Graham is gnawing away at learning the piano. I have another friend who’s taken up the casual study of French, and author Jennifer Ashley has lately been posting on social media about her re-entry into the craft of knitting.

Do you have hobby projects? Backburner pursuits that provide great satisfaction without following any schedule, pay scale, or predictable progress? If you were going to pick up a new hobby, what would it be?

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12 comments on “Craft-wise

  1. I have recently gotten back into doing puzzles. They hurt my back terribly, so I have to limit how much time I can spend on them. But they are so enjoyable and nourishing for me! I got a new puzzle as a gift for the holidays, and it has revived my love of them.

  2. I learned to sew at an early age and started quilting after college. I got away from it for a while and then returned to it and then got away again. But I still subscribe to quilting newsletters and thus “keep my hand in.” When I can get rid of enough junk to allow me to set up a space that I don’t have to take down every night (looking at the kitchen/dining table here), I definitely plan to get back to it. I love fabric and colors and shapes and feel very creative doing it. Someday… I actually never did do something for money except work fulltime. In fact, while in high school, I let my mother convince me to sew for money for a friend of hers. I did it but it was so stressful (I’m a perfectionist at heart), that I vowed never to do it for money again. I will give away things I’ve made but never take payment.
    For now though, I read in my spare time instead since that takes up no more room than I do. And, because I enjoy reading most of all (learned that even earlier).

  3. There are all sorts of needlecraft things I’d like to do/finish. But lately I’ve been doing some decoupage projects. About 20 years ago, I bought a WONDERFUL desk at a second-hand store but it had a terrible scratch right across the top. The price was about 1/4 of what it would have been if it was unmarred. So I bought it and decoupaged the top and it’s wonderful. I’ve done other pieces of furniture–I did a couple of small shelves that are on the wall above the desk and a couple of trays–but have decided to do some actual art pieces. I’ve got all the material, just have to find time to do it!

  4. I’m a fountain pen junkie. I’m not artistic enough for calligraphy, through I love reading medieval manuscripts. But scribbling in beautiful ink colors using oblique, italic, stub, & other specialty nibs makes my correspondence & journaling food for my soul.

  5. I’m hoping to get back to bookbinding, but with non-standard materials. Could be ridiculous and unusable, but it sounds fun and creative to me.

    I like your book idea Grace. On top of the writing advice, I would recommend giving some specific advice for those who want to self-publish and get a physical book on a bookstore shelf (maybe in an appendix?). Everybody really does judge a book by its cover so it is worth it to hire an editor AND a cover designer. Don’t go for the cheapest printing option; if there isn’t a price and an ISBN on the cover it isn’t going on a shelf. Pay attention to what the spine will look like because your book will not be face out generally. Don’t get me started on non-standard dimensions, hard to read fonts, etc.

  6. When your email popped up to the top and I saw the needlework in the picture, I wondered ‘could she possibly going to be speaking of needlework?’ It got my heart going a little faster, thank you.

    First, let me say how exciting it is that you are working on a book about writing. Writers are my rock-stars, and like an embarrassing name dropper who reports whoever famous they caught a glimpse of in an airport, or reads obsessively about their private lives, I’m kinda sorta that way about writers. Although, I limit my reading to what authors are willing to share of their own accord. So, I’ll love reading about your process and story and whatever you care to share about your art.

    Hobbies. Whew. I’ve had to give up some old favorites due to my hands, drat it all. But I picked up a new hobby during the pandemic that would allow me to unload my creative urges without taxing my hands. But time is the problem. I have a really hard time carving out the time to go hide in my girl cave and do it, to just go play. I’ll start something and interrupt it to go back to the real world and then it’s days, sometimes weeks before I get there again. There’s more to the story about why I can’t just pick up the project for an hour here or there, but it’s the boring ‘real life, adulting’ stuff. And everyone understands that.

  7. Ah, I so dearly wanted to learn pottery, especially the wheel. for a time I was able to take classes and just loved it. That opportunity is not available anymore and I hope to get hope to get back to crochet and or sewing. I always wanted to learn quilting and maybe I will get to that after I finishing getting rid of stuff until I fit into the space I have. Not a craft, but making room for one.

  8. I have many hobbies with mostly unfinished projects. I love diving down internet rabbit holes, just like I once did with encyclopedia. I also love to daydream. Don’t know if that’s a hobby or a bad habit. I’ve silently redecorated countless meeting rooms and venues, drafted mental house plans, told myself countless stories. I’d like to try quite a few more things, but perhaps I’ll just try to appreciate other’s efforts from here on out. There are some wickedly talented, creative and motivated people doing amazing things out there.

    And, yes, let’s hear it for readable fonts. (Blackstone’s law in the original printing, anyone? German Fraktur?) Let’s rejoice in ISBN numbers that can keep us from buying the same book twice and makes finding a specific edition much, much easier. There are inks and papers out there to which I am allergic. They are mostly found as newspapers and comic books. I’ve run into them in mass market paperbacks, however. No idea what makes the difference. And how about the the oddball, suggestive cover pictures that had my mother throwing out the school’s copies of Pride and Prejudice. And let’s hear it for people who are willing to spill the blood, sweat and tears to give us a book to read.

  9. My “backburner projects” over the past few years have been writing cookbooks. I first wrote a cookbook to gift my niece on her engagement some years ago. My family sees me as a good cook, so I wanted to share something unique that only I could give her. It became a tradition to present it to all newly engaged or married couples in the family. Many years later, I wrote a second cookbook, this one designed to preserve my parents’ recipes. Mom and Dad each had their own recipe box and when they passed, I grabbed the recipes up before they could be discarded. I typed up all the recipes, (with edits only where I felt they were absolutely necessary), and typeset a book that spotlights images of my parents on each page, along with memories of times they served each dish and little notes that they included on the recipe cards, as well as scans of some of the cards. Though it is available for sale, that was never my goal (I think I actually made $.87 profit on each of the two books I sold!). What I wanted to do was preserve the special dishes my parents were known for and pass them down to my two children and my brother’s two children to whom I gifted copies. Lately I have been working on a sequel to my first cookbook. Because I love to cook, I am constantly collecting and perfecting new recipes. I have assembled over 200 recipes that were not included in my first book. It is slow going (especially as I HATE typing!), but I look forward to the day when I can start designing the book (as a graphic designer, that’s the fun part for me). No rush and it keeps me out of trouble (mostly!). Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  10. My hobbies have been the same for many years now I still work full time so my hobbies are sleeping and reading, and I play a few games like Wordle. One day when I have a free table and time, I used to enjoy putting together puzzles.

  11. I do have hobby projects but they are all backburnered at the moment. Seems like life has other ideas for me at the moment.
    I love fiber art, but I don’t sew, so no quilting for me. But, I have a fondness for wool and felt. (Wool is an AMAZING material!!!!!) I’ve thought extensively about what pictures I could make with it. I have yet to actually put scissors to the felt though. I also have lots of patterns for crafting things like animals and Christmas-themed things. Sometimes I will see something on pinterest or etsy that just strikes my fancy and I want to make it!
    Yet, the pull of real life always interrupts going to the next step from “buy pattern”. *sigh
    I think my hobby is, therefore, buying patterns! ;p

  12. I have many hobbies to add to my basket. Knitting, watercolor, and cooking are a few. I crochet and bake. In these early days of my retirement, I’m reading and reading and more reading. I had dreamed of being able to read without having to go to work and I’m doing it. It’s the best life. When I’m ready to add variety I’ll tacking knitting, watercolor and cooking.