In the January 2021 Monthly Meow I talked a little about how I'd used some time off to get creative and find ways to avoid unnecessary screen time. I wanted to talk a bit about how each of these additional hobbies helps me in other areas of my life—how can an unrelated hobby help push us through creative blocks?
When I was a kid, my great uncle taught me how to crochet, and I've enjoyed it ever since. Whilst I'm still learning even now, and my skills are limited, I love how I can switch off my laptop and put my phone on silent to enjoy something that, though repetitive and sometimes frustrating, teaches me patience as I build and create something from the bare materials.
This is not unlike writing a novel. Instead of those bare materials being a ball of wool and a hook that weaves and stitches together a doll, we use our ideas plus a pen and paper to weave together a storyline. Eventually... we produce a book. To crochet a doll comes with mistakes and blocks, and I have to unpick an hour's work sometimes. But I'm used to it, because deleting scenes in a chapter (or the entire chapter!) isn't uncommon in my line of work.
Want to learn? This is the book I ordered (The Crochet Book: Over 130 techniques and stitches) and it's super handy! I'd recommend ordering the hardback at £10.00 so you can flick through the pages.
Challenge Yourself For Fun
Since my late teens, I've also made jewellery—mostly bracelets and earrings. I like how much concentration and focus the task requires as I use tools to attach and manipulate the finer details. It's nicely balanced as I can be creative and expressive at the same time.
This is not unlike editing and proofreading, particularly when it's my own book. Writing the book is the fun part, choosing the characters and the events throughout as I would choose the beads to fasten to the wire base. The editing is in the finer work, ensuring there are no silly mistakes that will cause a breakage or prick the wearer, and proofreading is adding any final touches and seeing what it looks like on my wrist.
If you'd like to have a go at making jewellery, I buy my supplies mostly from Hobbycraft (UK) and Amazon. Here is a link to Hobbycraft's website: https://www.hobbycraft.co.uk/
Until last year (2020), I'd never learnt to play a musical instrument. In school, I was always the kid at the back with the triangle or in a group singing the 'ahhh-haa's during any performances (because I also can't sing!). Putting aside my year of learning the recorder in primary school and my year of noodling on a guitar in secondary school, I've never felt the urge.
But, I needed a challenge. I'm a huge fan of the electric violinist Lindsey Stirling, and though I will never ever be on her level, I liked how beautiful the violin sounded and the amazing mixes she puts together. So, I bought one*... get your ear plugs ready!
Not unlike running a creative business like writing and publishing your own books, learning the violin has so many aspects you need to master before you're anywhere near perfect. And if you don't keep practising, you quickly forget.
Keeping your bow arm straight, staying in tune, finger placement and tightening the bow (as well as trying to avoid neck cramps and driving your family crazy with the squeaking!) are all vital. Just as character arcs, spelling, grammar, punctuation, choosing the right platform, marketing and so much more is vital to a successful book launch. Learning the violin is a great way to practise multitasking—using lots of different skills at once to achieve harmony.
*My electric violin was ordered on Amazon, and came with the bow, case, rosin and a tuner (plus a headset). It's a 'silent violin' so if you live with lots of other people and want to learn, it may not be a bad choice. I love mine - it did the trick nicely.
I hope these hobbies helped to inspire you in your pursuit of a new challenge this year. Reach out and chat with me about crochet, jewellery making or my electric violin if you'd like to know more.