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It’s Time to Pick Your Weird Quarantine Hobby!

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Writers are hard-wired to be alcoholic shut-ins, but now that we’re required to stay cooped up in our homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can start to feel a little claustrophobic. If you live in an area with a stay-at-home order, you can’t go browse the shelves at a bookstore, drool over fancy pens at Office Depot, or hope the cute barista notices you working on your novel at the coffee shop. This is a recipe for making writers go a little crazy. But never fear: you can maintain your sanity and help your writing by taking up a weird, obsessive hobby. Here are some popular options:

Baking bread. Make yourself a sourdough starter by combining flour, water, yeast, and a week of neglect as you let it rot in a jar on your kitchen counter. Sourdough is a popular loaf among writers, for whom letting a project linger until it starts to smell funny is second nature.

Writing your secret project under a pen name. Now’s your chance to work on the thing you’ve had in the back of your mind but never had the courage to try. The one you’re scared to read at your writers group. You know the one I mean [1].

Cooking. When telling people how you’re spending your days under quarantine, saying “I like to cook” makes you sound way more cultured and interesting than “I like to eat.” But realistically, you’re not going anywhere, and your favorite restaurants are closed. You may as well get good at cooking. But more importantly, it’s your opportunity to start your recipe blog! Just mix one cup of culinary skill, twelve ounces of beer (hee hee!), and 1,000 words about a fancy hamburger you ate on vacation one time.

Disinfecting your collection of pens. One by one, then sorting them by size.

Learning magic tricks. I’m a natural—I’ve figured out how to make all my snacks disappear! Ha ha! But in all seriousness, everyone should have a cool party trick, and learning even a small feat of close-up magic will keep your brain humming, give you a sense of satisfaction, and make you a hit the next time you’re invited to a party, probably two years from now.

graffiti on a wall, displaying the word "hobby" [2]
photo by Stoerer Dresden

Play some chess by mail. This may seem old-fashioned in the era of online gaming, but the classic game of chess by mail is a great way to interact with faraway friends, and annihilate them. It also works as a friendly ice-breaker with people you’re not sure if you’re on good terms with, like an estranged relative, or your credit card company.

Host an online story hour for your friends’ kids. Your friends will thank you for keeping their newly homeschooled kids occupied so they can focus on work, look for a new job after getting laid off, or just enjoy a few minutes’ peace and quiet. I recommend reading beloved classics like Charlotte’s Web, Watership Down, or your literary-novel-in-progress, which will surely be a classic one day, so you’re doing them a favor by giving them a sneak peek. Ask questions to keep the kids engaged, like, “What’s the moral of the story?” Or “Are the protagonist’s actions believable in this scene, or does it seem like she going through the motions because that’s what the outline dictated?” Hopefully your friends have set up a camera so you can see the kids’ faces light up during the good parts, or quake in terror during the intense portions. And if you see their eyes glaze over with boredom during a pivotal chapter of your WIP, you can tattle on them for misbehaving.

What hobbies have you taken up during the pandemic? Share your new obsessions in the comments!

About Bill Ferris [3]

After college, Bill Ferris [4] left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.