The Secret of Hobbies in Keeping Us Sane


This week at the SFF Seven we’re talking about those hobbies that take the pressure off writing.

This is relevant for more than curiosity because hobbies are key for creatives to fend off burnout. It’s interesting, because it seems like when we talk about “hobbies,” we’re already assigning whatever project it is a lesser status. A hobby is something you do on the side, for pleasure and no other reason. I’m going to add that a hobby usually doesn’t generate income (until it does). You might not even be that good at it, because if you were good at it, people would pay you, right?

We talk about hobbies in a slightly indulgent, somewhat disparaging way:

“Oh, my spouse’s hobby is woodworking, but mostly they just putter in the garage.”


“My spouse reads countless books. It’s a cute hobby, but an expensive one!”

See what I mean?

The thing about hobbies, though, is that they are critical to our wellbeing. They keep us sane. For creatives, hobbies refill the well, which is what we need to avoid burnout.

What happens for a lot of us making a living from our creative work – I’ll stick with writing as my example – is that what started as a hobby becomes a job. The thing we did for fun, for pressure release, simply out of love, becomes the thing we must do to pay the mortgage and keep the lights on. We lost our hobby and frequently don’t replace it. Because we’re doing what we love for work! That should be enough, right?

Spoiler: it’s not enough.

One of the most important things any creative can do is have a non-monetized creative outlet or two. AKA, hobbies. The non-monetized aspect is important, because it allows us to be creative without that feeling of needing to pay the bills or track sales or make business decisions. I met a US Poet Laureate who also painted – and very well – but had a solid rule never to sell his work. He only gave his paintings as gifts. I’ve remembered that lesson ever since.

What do I do? I confess that, in the eight years since I became a full-time, career author – as in supporting my family with my writing – I have not been super great at keeping up hobbies. I’ve burned out once, too, and come close to it a couple of other times. I’m trying to do better. What do I do?

  1. Gardening
  2. Reading
  3. Interior Decorating
  4. Hiking
  5. Yoga


It was instructive to make this list coming at it from the lens of a “hobby” rather than “non-monetized creativity.” I’ve been trying to implement creative things I can do, but I’m just now realizing that these other activities – even something as prosaic painting my living room (I decided to include an in-process photo), as I’m doing this weekend – also count as leisure-time, restorative activities. Theoretically, everything on my list could be monetized.

(Maybe not. Can you be paid to hike? And I will never, ever be that good at yoga! Trust me: a yoga teacher I will never be.)

Anyway, celebrate those hobbies! They aren’t silly or pointless. They’re what feeds us as human beings.


Writing What I Read

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re asking: “Do you read in the genre you write?”

What’s funny is that my answer is absolutely yes – but that I didn’t always write in the genre I read. Does that make sense?

I have always read Fantasy and Science Fiction, since I was a little kid, and I’ve been reading Romance since I was old enough to walk to the used bookstore to buy my own books, as my mom wouldn’t let me read “that trash.” (Because she thought Romance was low-brow and anti-feminist, not because of the sex.) But when I started out as a writer, I wrote Creative Nonfiction.

Some of this was timing and coincidence. When I decided I wanted to be a writer instead of a scientist, one of the first classes I took was “Essays on Self and Place,” from a visiting writer at the university. I fell easily into writing essays and had success with them. My first book was an essay collection. And, sure, I read some essays. I read a lot of essay collections and memoir. But I was always reading them as research and reciprocity.

All that time, what I read for pure enjoyment? Anything with a paranormal/SFF element and plenty of Romance.

It was only after my first book came out that a friend – a bookseller who knew my tastes and sold me hardcover releases of JD Robb, Laurell K. Hamilton, Stephenie Meyer, and Jaqueline Carey – asked me why I wasn’t writing in the genres I so clearly loved to read.

Funny that. It simply hadn’t occurred to me. But then I started to, I wrote this Fantasy Romance* (not a genre then, but what did I know??) that was SO MUCH FREAKING FUN TO WRITE. I couldn’t believe how much more fun I had writing my crazy tale about a scientist who falls into Faerie, becomes a sorceress, and ends up in a bargain with a fae lord to bear his child. I even got a really nice rejection on the book from Stephenie Meyer’s agent! (Though it took a long time for me to sell it, which is another tale.)

The rest is history. ~ Waves at catalogue of Epic Fantasy Romances ~ I haven’t looked back. Writing what I love to read has absolutely been a great decision.

*The book that became ROGUE’S PAWN

First Cup of Coffee – June 9, 2023

A round-up of what I’ve been reading lately, including several excursions from my normal reading. I’m thinking about female/femme narratives and how we center those (or don’t) in terms of stories about men.

Analyzing Genre Expectations

I just returned from WisCon, which was a delightful, warm, sort-of summer-camp version of a con. I had a great time. I also got to visit the farmer’s market and get a wonderful jump start on spring.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: How to analyze genre expectations for your genre.

You know, I have one answer to this question, which is pretty much the same as what KAK said yesterday: READ.

I feel like people are often looking for the shortcuts in this business. And certainly there are the shovel-salesmen eager to sell the gold-miners the newest-fangled device that will make their job SO MUCH EASIER. So, sure – there are tools and surveys out there that purport to analyze trends and bullet-point the expectations of the hot genres.

But nothing substitutes for reading. And reading what’s current, as well as the canon the new stuff builds upon. Genre and the expectations readers bring to their reading are fluid and ever changing. I once advised an aspiring author – a woman who’d been very well published 20 years before, had a life-lull, and was looking to get back into it – who hadn’t read anything published in her genre in the last couple of decades. She couldn’t understand the feedback she was getting from agents and editors because her reading lens was calibrated to what amounted to ancient history genre-wise.

Also, reading refills the creative well. All writers begin as readers first. (At least, I hope so. A writer who doesn’t love reading seems to me like a fish who swims but doesn’t like water.) If you don’t have time to read, make the time. Replace watching shows or scrolling on your phone with READING. You don’t have to finish everything you read (I certainly don’t), but you should read at least some of what’s popular and what your readers are reading.

Did I mention read? Yeah: do that.

First Cup of Coffee – April 22, 2022

Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee. Ah. Had to take an extra sip there today is they haven’t done this for a while say it with me: Friday! Whoo, um April Twenty second so it’s 4 twenty two 22 and it’s beautiful morning here. Crab Apple tree is in glorious bloom and I’m realizing. However. That I need something on my little arms because we’re go have wins again today but today and tomorrow shall be the last for the big wins and then we get nice again? Um, but I’m going to go grab a jacket I shall be right back there I put on a pink. To match the crab Apple but you probably can’t see all that well because of the rising sun but um and I grab my notes because I made notes today. Um I think I haven’t given a writing. Update. And a while I’m still working on The Storm Princess and the Raven King I am well past midpoint I’m closing in on scene 5 and I’m at um, little shy 55000 words I I think it’s going fine. It’s funny because lately ah, several people have asked me how the writing is going which I guess people must ask me all the time and I’m just noticing it lately because I actually don’t have a good answer to it I think my head is so caught up with nebula planning and stuff with SFWA. Yeah, I’m actually not I don’t know I’m I’m not um, what is the word I want people. I want to say kvetching and that’s not right? Um I’m not all caught up in the book I’m not having my usual emotional turmoil over writing this book I feel like I’m circling in the book I thought that after the.

Break over Easter in Tucson with the family where I didn’t write it all for a few days that I that would be a great time to come back and revise from the beginning and I didn’t feel like doing that I felt like going forward with where I was on the book I keep wanting to turn the laptop but I want you guys to see the crap Apple. You probably don’t care. But. You get to see it anyway. Um yeah I wanted to keep going and and I feel like and I do think I’ve mentioned this before you know this is Rhyian and Lena’s story and they’re kind of caught in something of a vicious circle in their relationship. So I can’t tell how much of this is them circling and how much it’s me circling but to some extent I am oddly sanguine about it. How often do we get to use that word in daily conversation? I am I have a good plan I have time to revise and I realize that I may end up like doing a lot of cutting and streamlining by the time I get to it maybe I won’t I often think that I am and then i. I don’t so so we shall see um but so far I’m feeling fine about the book. Maybe that’s a bad sign. Ah, coffee tastes good I am also am on something of a rabbit hole I don’t know if it counts as a rabbit hole if I’m not lost to it but I’m doing so I started reading something unusual for me. And I do blame Connie Willis. Okay now I am turning the laptop so I can sit back a little bit here because she in her great epigraphs. Do you come epigraphs if it’s just like a little forwardy thing to her stories in the collection Firewatch. She mentioned the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the courtship between her and her husband the poet Robert Browning with stuff that I didn’t know um because before this. I think I knew about them that you know it’s like the result of of this education I don’t know maybe we could scathingly say american public school education which only gives a glancing overview. Also my um.

Private Liberal Arts College education get this shallow overview of everything every once while he was like people especially the experts the experts of I put that in their quotes. Ah complain about that sort of thing. And and I always think whatever I think of that word I think of when I was in graduate school and one of my favorite professors had a poster up that said experts don’t know more than anybody else. They’re just better prepared and have slides. Guys it is so fucking true and those are words to live by. So ah how the experts I I think this is a theme with me I I circle back around to things about experts and people knowing stuff and. Putting a lot of pride in what they know anyway, I will admit without hesitation that I had this very um, shallow understanding of the poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning which I suspect many of us have. Um, and I can quote the 1 poem. How do I love thee, let me count the ways but I did not know a lot about their courtship I did not know that she was a famous poet before I knew she’d married later in life I didn’t know that she was 40 that he was 9 years younger that he fell in love with her poetry and courted her because of that that she was basically an invalid and a shut-in fascinating things about her family. So I do get interested in biographies. But this was a little bit of a departure for me because I was reading about this while I was at my folks house in Tucson and impulsively bought a couple of books one on Kindle and 1 on paper of all things that are biographies of her and so I’ve been reading this book and. I could actually give you the actual title and I can link to it and be responsible by I’m reading a book called Dared and Done: the Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning by Julia Marcus and it’s very interesting and I i. Enjoying it a whole bunch. Ah, it really feels like it’s feeding an unasked question. You know how the universe sometimes does that it supplies you stuff that you didn’t know you wanted to think about.

And there’s great stuff in this book that I didn’t know I wanted to think about. And and there’s going to be a lot here I think this is going to become a book slash series slash new world someday I try not to teach you guys with secret projects because you complain and I know you complain with? Love. Ah, um, yeah, this just gave me an idea with a capital I so but it’s far down the road I have um I mean I have I caught you guys up on stuff lately doesn’t matter. After I finish storm princess on the Raven King that ties off the heirs of magic series that’ll be done then I’m going to write another book in bonds of magic series for all of you wondering if there are more books after gray magic that’s what I’m writing once I finish this then I have 2 more books planned to write. 1 is one that I started that I think of something like a hundred pages on. Let’s see how many pages I have on that. Maybe it’s not so many I might be um, ah, overly optimistic there. Oh yeah. Well, but sorry at disneeze might be just the one I no, that’s not so bad I have 87 pages on it. 20 a little shy of 24000 words I want to finish writing that book and then I have another new shiny idea that I promised to write. For agent Sarah in the fall for possible submission. Our other thing is still out on submission and she Sarah wrote me an email the other day and actually let me find this because you guys will be interested. And think she won’t mind me sharing this but it’s very interesting industry wise so you know we just don’t have much going on with that secret project that’s been out you know since last fall genre departure and Sarah says she gave me a few updates. There’s really nothing much to say but she said. All submissions are going slow and to give you some perspective I’m currently out with 8 different submissions spanning all genres from historical to sweet contemporary to paranormal Rom -com all are going slow and I think this is more a symptom of publishing at the moment versus your book.

People are just hitting bandwidth walls and they need something. Oh oh I’m sorry and until they need something or something heats up. It’s going slow but going to be trying to as my dad would say kick the tires and light. The fires. Resubs and see if we can get some good news. She’s very sweet but and I am hearing this from more people than Sarah um, and it’s interesting even like with nebula planning. You know we have people just dropping out of doing stuff. Um, just. Like suddenly hitting overwhelm I think it’s just where we are bandwidth bandwidth is a real thing for people right now. So this feels like a good time for me to be contemplating new things. So a lot of. Writers talk about and I hear writers say this all the time that they won’t read anything in their genre while they’re writing a particular book which for me because I’m all always writing I don’t that wouldn’t be possible then I would never read in my own genre. But I also think that that’s a. It’s a consideration that’s not that important because and I know I emphasize this all the time that people who plagiarize are doing it on purpose and putting stuff into the stew of your creative mind is. That’s just partly how we refill the well so so I’m reading this stuff about Elizabeth Barrett and kind of storing it away into this stew for this story I want to write. But it’s also giving me interesting. Food for thought and one of them is is that she was as I said famous as a poet. Um, as as an invalid basically a shut in she didn’t leave her room for many many years and there’s. Different stuff about like what was wrong with her but we won’t go into all of that you can go read the book but this fine I mean it’s a great love story and it’s exactly the kind of thing that I write about and that I love in romance. Is that when she fell in love with Robert browning that gave her the impetus to take control of her health and to leave her room for the first time in I think you know in something like a decade and she ended up marrying him and running off you know of.

Avoiding her tyrannical father evading escaping running off to italy and lived and she lived there married deliriously happy for 15 years before she died still too young around my age. Ah.

And it’s some the part that ah the book that I’m yet getting into now is and it does as the title indicates really focuses on their marriage the book that I got on paper focuses a whole lot on her early life. But she continued to be a prolific poet and wrote a whole lot about the political events going on in italy at the time which is another big lacuna in my public school education that I really didn’t know much about what was going on in the middle eighteen hundreds in italy did you. Um, giving you all the inquiring look maybe it would be a little much to expect and and actually what this book is saying is is that even at the time very few people in England or America knew about the politics of italy and. Where the you know the period in Paris when all the writers were there. You know really made parisian politics very familiar to people Elizabeth was writing about the politics in italy and so was Robert browning but people weren’t interested. They. Just so didn’t care and another fascinating thing is is that once she was married and had a child which isn’t that cool I mean she had a child after she was she was like 41 or 42 I I think it’s interesting because. When I was 36 this gal that I knew I don’t know if I would color a friend but we were sort of it in the same circle but she she asked me one day kind of out of the blue if I had regretted never having children and I was 36 and I It took me aback and I said I didn’t think I’d never had them yet and and she was flustered and was all like oh I didn’t mean and it’s like well why do you ask somebody a question like that for the record I never tried to have children I I always use birth control I never. Woke up one day thinking that I needed to have a baby I kept thinking I might you know like that ticking clock would suddenly go off and I would hear the alarm and I didn’t but I also acquired 2 stepchildren when I was 24 and that kind of sucked up all of my. But little maternal bandwidths I apparently have um douglas either anyway after she was married her poetry got dismissed as being like Robert browning’s wife’s and it sort of.

Pens on the era and I found this fascinating because the author says that she refers to as criticism changed as as the critical community and critical in terms of literary criticism. Changed up through the 1950 s when they began to understand that a poem could also be and mean something that her her italian poems about politics were dismissed as being um, cheapened. By being about politics instead of being about like higher things isn’t that interesting and I know I touched on this the other day and Lexi Chantal made a lovely reel about it. Thank you Lexie ah, and. Reacted to it in a blog post on the SFF7 blog about whether or not we try to make our work outlive us whether we try to make it mean something and it was fascinating to me the idea that literary criticism evolves. Also. Which I mean I guess I thought I knew this but it was interesting hearing someone else say it because you guys hear me talk all the time about objecting to people qualifying stuff as whether or not it’s well writtent. Or is it a good book or a bad book and there’s there’s a great meme going around with Stephen King who personally pisses me off because I don’t know why Stephen King decided he got to be on a literary high horse that he gets to. Past judgment on whether or not other people are writing good books but I do think it’s interesting. The idea that how we view creative works changes over time. It makes sense that it does. But I’m molling this idea now that so much can be just what we see in the moment is very different with historical perspective right? Ah and 1 thing that the author who is a woman is talking about is how Elizabeth Barrett was she calls her describes her as being diffident and self-effacing. She was a very modest person even though she started out being hugely more famous than Robert Browning she was also a shutin she had a very very small world and.

She had many people who came to visit her and a lively correspondence. But she also just did not have a huge ego and so she would excuse herself saying ah you know I’m only watching this through my window and. You know I’m just as a woman and she used analogies after she married of being a wife and being a mother because of course she did this is going back to what I was talking about the other day with the pipes and how that colors the water that comes out of the pipes. What we are doing who we are at any given time. Is going to influence our creative voice. Well the critics damned her for her for it saying that again that she had made her work less important by using these womanly analogies you know and it’s like well you know fuck. Those guys. It’s just sort of like ah I want to say the more things change the more they stay the same. But I think we’re just still living out this same trajectory. So anyway, those are all the things that I’m thinking about right now. it’s it’s I really ah it’s a I call it a rabbit hole because I had not expected it all to be going in this direction and I’m finding it immensely rewarding and I suppose this is how we deepen our previously shallow educations. One of my favorite professors in college said that. Whole point of a college education is to teach you how to continue to learn for for the rest of your life and I think that is um that that has served me very well I absolutely believe that and this is an example right. I am continuing to learn about ah the politics of italy in the mid eighteen hundreds did you know that they were not a unified nation I didn’t know that and and about Elizabeth Barrett and Robert browning fascinating stuff. Filling that well, it’s really fun all right I’m going to head out I hope you all have a wonderful weekend I hope you find some delightful rabbit holes of your own and I will talk to you all on Monday take care bye bye.