By Brian Kaufman
Introduced to a new coworker recently, “What do you do for fun?” I explained that I write. Since I write textbooks for a living, my new friend pressed me for a different answer. “No, not work. What do you do for fun?”
“You don’t spend every moment of every day writing,” they said. “What do you do when you’re not writing?”
Over the last year, I’ve discovered the joy of filling drive time with audiobooks. This habit joins keeping a book in the bathroom and on the nightstand, books in my car, books in my computer bag, books in the Kindle app of my iPad. I haven’t even mentioned my fiction podcast downloads.
Until two years ago, I worked in the restaurant industry. As a prep cook, I often tackled the most mind-numbing kitchen task of all—deveining shrimp. Each shrimp is slit open across the back, and the dark tube that resides just under the skin is removed. (It’s not a vein, by the way. It’s a digestive tract, but vein sounds better than colon.)
Since the act of deveining thousands of shrimp is gruesome on multiple levels, it’s wise to steer the mind elsewhere. I used to imagine scenes I planned to write or revisit scenes I’d already written. I’d play moments like a movie in my head. I reviewed one passage in my Civil War novel more than 200 times, fine tuning. (If you think that’s overkill, you missed the part about standing in one spot, deveining thousands of what my manager once called cockroaches of the sea)
I like to shop.
And every shopping trip includes a trip to a bookstore. I haunt the aisles, looking at titles, book cover designs, and grouping trends.
Some bars have a two-drink minimum. I have a two-book minimum when I visit a bookstore.
I work out a lot. An hour or two every day. Exercise can be tedious. If I’m not listening to a book, I’m planning one in my head.
I love my wife, my dog, and I’m partial to beer. I enjoy all three when I visit a local Fort Collins tap house that accommodates my pet. My wife is a published poet, and she loves to analyze poetry and books. Guess what we talk about?
I play guitar…and I’ve written a lot of songs. I love baseball (and I wrote a novel about it).
You get the idea. Obsession—the constant preoccupation with something—can greatly benefit when pursuing a writer’s life. For example, I don’t have to be in a certain mood to write, any more than I need to be hungry to eat. (Bad analogy, perhaps, but at this moment, I’m hungry, so I’m writing about it.)
Commercial and professional success means less to me. Rejection hurts less. And acclaim is not my goal.
After all, I’m writing for myself.