The Escape Artist

I’d like to fancy myself a would-be magician with a couple of bar scam sleight-of-hand tricks and the inability to actually saw people in half.

The thing about writing for a living is needing new hobbies. Once you’re out of that first-draft honeymoon phase and it’s time to crack down on revisions, rewrites, and shaping up query letters, you need something other than writing to fill that creative void. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working on a new book while you and your precious first draft are taking some time apart, but there sadly comes a point where a new first draft can’t be your only escape.

If you’re like me, you will burn yourself out.

I started learning sleight of hand and bar scams from Scam School because I’ve always had an interest in magic and who doesn’t want sick wizard powers? I got the opportunity see Brian Brushwood perform at DragonCon last year, and he is very good at what he does. There’s nothing better than amazing and fooling friends and strangers. Ask me about the three coin trick and I might show you.

Three years ago, I took up fire spinning and contact juggling. Like magic, these were two things I’ve always wanted to learn. I don’t play poi much anymore, but I can manipulate crystals like the Goblin King, which is seriously awesome to break out during parties.

Most recently, as in last Friday, I’ve taken up swing dancing. I love it. The Electroswing Speakeasy is held every month at the Red Light Cafe in Atlanta, and I’ve got a standing appointment. It’s a simple to grasp the basics of 1940s East Coast Swing, and the spins and turns look more impressive than I can say. However, I don’t recommend you spin around the floor immediately after consuming an alcoholic beverage, lesson learned.

You don’t necessary need to leave your house though. I’ve also, accidentally, spent seven hours in one day playing Bioshock Infinite and I regret nothing. Paint, dance, sing along with the radio, take up fencing, take up yoga. Pick something you want and go after it!

The important thing about finding other passions is never forgetting your first one: writing. It’s not going to do you any good if you forget to work. And it IS work. There will be days when you don’t want to do it, when editing is hard or you think you suck.

Go learn something. Come back. Work a little more.

Know what you can do with all these new hobbies? Use them as character fodder. Real people have interests outside their careers. Take the history of 1940s Swing and create an underground dance mafia bent on eradicating Lindyhoppers.

In The Killing Type, Jonathan Gale’s hobby is sleight of hand.

Use your new skills, whether it be for good or evil.

Speaking of evil, I’ve got my Splicer mask to finish.

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