Blaugust, as envisioned by Belghast of Tales of the Aggronaut, is a festival of blogging, a celebration of content creation of the written word variety, and a community-building activity for people participating in a medium that many consider to be dying or already dead. Although Blaugust awards are granted for established blogs who put out at least five posts during the month of August, I’ve set my sights on the Rainbow Diamond award, and am planning a post per day for the entire month.
This prompt would probably be easier to approach if (a) I had more specific niche or (b) I had more hobbies. I intentionally kept the scope of this blog pretty wide, precisely so I could keep going with it as my interests wavered. While I’ve pretty consistently kept the majority of my content focused around gaming, I’ve also allowed myself to wander off path to other things that catch my fancy from time to time. So every now and then, I talk about books, music, television and movies, or crafty projects like paint-by-numbers or cross-stitch.
So I’m going to subvert this prompt a little bit, and talk about some of the hobbies I’ve had in the past that I’ve drifted away from, including the reasons why I’m no longer actively pursuing those hobbies, provided I actually know what those are.
(The first one got a little long, but the rest, I promise, will be more to the point!)
Poetry: Reading, writing, performing & publishing
Forgive me for hopping into the Wayback Machine on this first one. Although I still read some poems here and there, poetry was pretty much my entire existence for about 5 years, starting around 1998. In 1999, I was the alternate for my home venue’s Poetry Slam team, and traveled to the National Poetry Slam in Chicago with them that year. Then, in 2000, the host city was nearby Providence, RI and although I was still writing, I dedicated myself to the organization side that year by taking on the position of Volunteer Coordinator. In 2001, NPS was in Seattle, WA and again, instead of performing with a team I elected to take on an organizational challenge, and coordinated a 96 hour open poetry reading, handling hosting and staffing duties over four very long days. For this effort, I was awarded the first ever Spirit of the Slam award during the Finals Night show.
Using the connections I had made leading up to NPS in Seattle, that September I headed out on a coast to coast tour, performing my work down the east coast, across the southern states, before performing my last show in California. I was pretty far from home when September 11th happened, and I ended up cutting my tour short to come back to be with family in the wake of the tragedy.
For the next several years, I continued writing, reading out at open mics, and even booking an occasional featured poet slot at shows. I even did a stint as the coach for my home team one year. I also dabbled in doing layout and publishing of poetry chapbooks, both of my own work and for other folks, but I knew by then that the rock star poet life wasn’t really for me. I think the last large scale poetry slam event I attended was back in 2008, and that was around the same time I almost entirely stopped writing poetry, although I attended smaller local-ish shows on occasion for a few more years.
Since the dissolution of Poetry Slam Incorporated (the non-profit organization behind the National Poetry Slam), a lot of the history has pretty much disappeared into the ether. I wasn’t one of the people who was ever going to make the highlights reel of this artistic movement anyway. In fact, even when I google my maiden name, there’s hardly an indication anywhere on the internet that I was ever involved with poetry, and I’m pretty okay with that.
Why I stopped: If I had to point to a single reason, it would be that I went through a couple of bouts of pretty serious interpersonal drama back to back. While that was reasonable good fodder for the writing part, my confidence was pretty badly shaken and I was uncomfortable in the spaces where things were happening locally. That said, I feel like by that point, I had already started growing out of the scene. I was seeing friends who had started around the same time as I did being very successful with it, and I knew then that I didn’t have the stage presence or the self-confidence to do much more than I was already doing. I made a lot of amazing friends during that time in my life, but it was a realm for the young and idealistic, or dedicated and charismatic, and I am no longer either.
I have always been a little bit jealous of folks who have any sort of affinity for visual art. I basically can’t draw anything more complex than a stick figure, I stick to paint-by-numbers when I have the urge to pick up a brush, and the printmaking course I took in college stressed me out and made me cry more than any introductory class every should. However, put a camera in my hand, and all of a sudden I understand composition and can – at least some of the time – produce something someone might consider hanging on their wall.
I’ve done some portrait photography, some event photography, and have even messed around some with everyday object photography, but nature shots are far and away the type of pictures I most enjoy taking. In college, I had a really great film SLR camera that I think cost me more than my first car, and nothing made me happier than hanging out in the darkroom printing photos. As film started to be phased out by digital, I lost interest for a few years. When my husband bought me a mid-range DSLR camera as a wedding present, I got back into photography for a couple of years, but it’s been awhile now since I’ve taken any pictures with anything but my phone. Sure, they’re still photos, but it’s really not the same.
Why I stopped: Once we stopped traveling, due to finances being tight, I found myself reaching for my good camera less and less before we’d leave the house. Now, I hardly ever leave the house, and my phone is always right at my finger tips when I want to take a picture. I’d like to get back into it someday, but I’d have to make a concerted effort to remember to take my camera when I do actually go places.
Zentangle(tm) or Meditative Doodling
I know, I just got finished telling you I cannot draw to save my life, and it probably won’t surprise you to hear that I am completely incapable of just sitting and doing nothing, but somehow, combining two things I’m absolutely dreadful at turns into something I can do well enough to not hate it.
It wasn’t ever something I got truly good at it, and I didn’t do much without the training wheels of a graph paper or dotted worksurface, but back when I was doing it regularly, I found it immensely relaxing. I got a lot of satisfaction from following the step-by-step instructions and producing something that looked like the example, and I’ve always loved a nice pen. It also filled a desire to collect things like a tiny dragon, leading to an overstuffed Pinterest board full of pattern step-outs to play around with.
Why I stopped: At the beginning of 2016, we moved into our current house. I only unpacked the box with my Zentangle supplies a couple months ago when the absurdly heavy bookshelves were finally settled into their proper spot. I’d definitely like to start back up now that I have access to all my stuff, but my project plate has been a little full lately, and I’m honestly a little apprehensive that what little skill I had may have atrophied over the years.
Sometimes it feels weird, the things we leave behind or put away on a shelf as our circumstances change. But I think, in one way or another, we always find our way back to the things we love. A year ago, I would have defined cross-stitch as something I used to do, and now, I usually have multiple projects in progress and it’s rare I go more than a few days without a good stitch session. I expect that most hobbies that you engage with for any significant period of time come back around again one way or another, given enough time, but for now, these things are nothing more than things the person I used to be used to do.