If the Shoe Fits…

I have a problem.

I’m a hoarder.

I’m obsessed with flashlights and I have way too many. *stuffs them all in go-bag already packed for theoretical Red Dawn scenario*

I have too many Arizona® v-neck shirts from JC Penney. I swear I have one in every color. But hey, they’re super comfortable! And cheap!

I have so many useless sound effects saved as MP3s on my iPod because OMG I MIGHT NEED THEM SOMEDAY. The 20th Century Fox Fanfare will come in handy sometime…right?

I *only* have 4 pairs of Converse. That doesn't count as hoarding...does it?
I *only* have 4 pairs of Converse. That doesn’t count as hoarding…does it?

But in this case I’m actually not talking about tangible things. I’m talking about hobbies. I have too many interests. We’ve all heard that saying, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” Sure, it often has kind of a negative connotation, but I think it applies here. It has to do with things that pertain to you, which includes skills/talents and interests.

Well, what if you have a lot of shoes and they all fit? You obviously can’t wear them all at once, but are you going to throw away the ones you don’t wear as often? That wouldn’t make any sense. They’re still perfectly good shoes (can you tell I like metaphors?). But I feel like some people would tell you it’s pointless to have so many shoes if you’re not actually going to wear all of them. Just focus on your favorites, the most comfortable pairs. They’re better for your feet, right? Riiiiight?

I’m not so sure.

I was inspired to write this piece after I realized I had made two different comments in as many days describing myself as a “________ nerd.” The first time, it was “analytics.” The second time, it was “geography.” This is something I’ve struggled with for a lot of my life, especially when it came time to head for college and choose a major. I have so many small interests but no “big” ones I can confidently say I want to devote the rest of my life to. After spending a year in software engineering, I transferred to my school’s IT department because, while it consisted of some of the same aspects (e.g. coding), it offered a much wider variety of classes (networking, troubleshooting, systems analysis, database design, even public speaking…God knows I needed that!). And with a health information emphasis, I also have a wider variety of opportunities in the workforce. I felt the need to give myself more options, since my interests change on [what sometimes seems like] a weekly basis.

  • I suppose it’s fairly obvious that WRITING is one of my interests. I was just saying the other day that nobody really inspired me to start writing; I’ve just always loved both reading and telling stories. I remember sitting down and trying to start writing a mystery story sometime in elementary school. During my Jurassic Park phase in 5th grade, I wrote fanfiction starring characters from the Jurassic Park III PC game “Danger Zone” (my friend and I were totally obsessed). In junior high, I wrote Star Wars fanfiction with other friends. One of my favorite memories in high school was a character development segment we went through in my 10th grade English class. We had to create an original character following a fairly in-depth guide (I kept that thing and I’ve still got it around here somewhere…) and then we had to write up an outline for a 300+ page novel starring that character. We didn’t actually have to write the novel, though I remember thinking “OMG 300 pages??? I could never do that.” …*laughs nervously* *glances down at my books* That was back when my family was staying up until 2am marathoning 24 like crazy people, so naturally my story involved FBI agents and Serbian terrorists and plane hijackings. Not sure what happened to that outline. Sometimes I really wish I still had it.

Pencil drawing of Kara “Starbuck” Thrace from Battlestar Galactica, circa 2012
  • Before I started writing more regularly, ART was my number one interest. I’ve been drawing people and portraits for just about as long as I could hold a pencil (needless to say the quality has improved drastically over the years!). And I went through that phase that all 8-year-old girls do of drawing nothing but horses. These days I’ve migrated almost exclusively to digital art, mostly because it’s faster and not as messy as pencils, but also because it’s a lot more interesting to see concepts in color than in grayscale. I love typography and graphic design too, and for a while I was convinced that was what I wanted to go to school for. Obviously that didn’t happen, but I still manage to make time for it as a hobby. I do a lot of concept art for my own stories and even do the occasional commission when I’m not bogged down with writing. Now that I’m mostly done with Ronan, it has actually been nice to dabble in a little bit of art again.

  • Building off of art, 3D MODELING is something I’ve always been interested in but have never really had the time or patience to learn. I think I’ve downloaded every free modeling software known to man, as well as the free trials of some of the (unnecessarily) expensive ones. I’m looking at you, Zbrush…. I even invested in a copy of an older version of Poser, but learning it just hasn’t been a priority compared to writing and art. I think 3D modeling would come in really handy for designing ships, buildings, weapons, and some of the other futuristic stuff I end up writing about. I actually just had a dream last night about looking at these incredible futuristic cityscapes that were done with modeling software, and now I’m all motivated to go try it again. We’ll see how long that lasts…

  • SPORTS have also been a major interest for the better part of my life. My mom has coached volleyball on and off since before I was born so I was exposed to the game early on (got my first ball-in-the-face at 3 months old 😉 ). I started playing volleyball in elementary and continued through high school. I was First Team All-State my senior year, MVP of the state tournament, and Player of the Year in my school’s league. I still hold the blocks-per-match, blocks-per-season, and kills-per-match school records, although my younger sister ended up breaking my kills-per-season record. I was offered the chance to play at two different colleges, one of which was the one I ended up attending, but decided against it (still don’t regret it). I’m currently an assistant coach/statistician at my old high school and play competitive volleyball with some of the other 20-somethings from around town on the weekends. I also did track for one season — threw javelin and ran the 400m. Even though I never played basketball, I’ve always loved watching it, especially at the college level. March Madness is one of my favorite times of the year. And even though I don’t know a lot about the game, I enjoy watching high-level soccer.

The code for a single form on the application was 65 pages long. Really glad I didn’t have to print it…
  • I’m kind of a numbers nerd. Not a math nerd, mind you. I love DATA. Statistics. Databases and reporting (hurrah Crystal Reports!) were my favorite aspects of my IT degree. I love being able to take information, sort it in a meaningful way, and then present it in a visually-appealing fashion. The insights tab on a blog dashboard or a Facebook fan page? I could stare at that stuff all day. Graphs and charts? I eat them up. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that I’m secretly a control freak. I like to know things, and I like facts. Those aspects of IT really appealed to me. That and the fact that I do enjoy programming, although I’m out of practice! For my senior project, I wrote a Windows-based application that will allow me to keep volleyball stats on my laptop rather than use the paper and clipboards (and Excel spreadsheets) we’ve been using for eternity.

  • One of my fairly new interests is GAMING. I say “fairly new” because, while I’ve wanted desperately to play games for a long time, I’ve only had the means to do so for a few years. I dabbled in little things like Zoo Tycoon and Runescape and those Nancy Drew RPGs, and I played a lot of Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart at a friend’s house. My first major games were KotOR and KotOR II, and I only played them for the first time in the winter of 2010, just to put things in perspective. Those of course introduced me to Bioware and subsequently Mass Effect ❤ (which I’d actually been aware of for quite a while but didn’t have a PC capable of running it). And where would I be if I hadn’t gotten into Portal? My life would be incredibly boring, that’s for sure. Mass Effect and Portal in particular actually helped me get through one of the toughest times of my life – there’s no denying it. I’ve also invested in an Xbox 360 with which to play the games my PC can’t/won’t run and have therefore been able to play through other great games like the Assassin’s Creed series and Mirror’s Edge (which I was insanely terrible at but still loved). My to-play pile continues to grow and currently contains Skyrim, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Dragon Age Origins/2, Tomb Raider, and Fallout 3/New Vegas.

La Cattedral di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. One time I fell off the top of it while trying to get a feather...
La Cattedral di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. One time I fell off the top of it while trying to get a feather…
  • Another interest that has actually been re-kindled by gaming is GEOGRAPHY. And not just geography… languages and foreign cultures in general. One of the first books I remember getting was this little pocket atlas I just called my “Map Book.” I was 4 or 5 and it was just one of those “free gifts” that came with a NatGeo subscription or something. I was obsessed with that thing and always took it on trips. Half the pages were falling out after so much use. Maps in general have always fascinated me, and geography was one of my favorite social studies classes in high school. I got really interested in European geography after watching the Bourne movies and became convinced I was going to learn German if it killed me. Then, after playing through Assassin’s Creed and the Ezio trilogy in particular, I became enamored with all things Italy and started teaching myself Italian using Duolingo (which I highly recommend because it’s both FREE and actually useful). I’ve been slacking majorly with my lessons lately, but it’s crazy how much you can remember even when you come back after not doing it for awhile. I recently replayed AC: Brotherhood and it was really fun to actually recognize some of the Italian words.

  • MUSIC is another thing I can say I’m really interested in. Thinking back on it, I’m not sure if I’ve ever really had a favorite band or singer. I always just liked certain songs from a wide variety of people. One thing I’ve always liked though is movie soundtracks. There was just something about the instrumental stuff that affected me more than music with actual lyrics. Then I discovered trailer music (actually thanks to watching the Mass Effect 2 launch trailer back when I was moping over not being able to play it and hearing Heart of Courage by Two Steps From Hell for the first time). That became a very slippery slope and these days I listen almost exclusively to movie/TV/game soundtracks, trailer music, and instrumental covers (à la Lindsey Stirling, The Piano Guys, etc.). I print out piano sheet music for all the songs I want to learn but will never have time for. I’ve never taken piano lessons, but back in high school I taught myself the majority of the Phantom of the Opera theme song and two of my friends and I would play it in 3 different octaves all on the same piano. That was pretty epic, to say the least. I’ve been muddling my way through An End Once and For All from the end of Mass Effect 3 and What Are You Going to Do When You Are Not Saving the World? from Man of Steel (I invested in a collection of sheet music from some of Hans Zimmer’s most popular movie scores 😀 ) but, like 3D modeling, this has all kind of gotten put on the back burner as I’ve been busy with writing lately.

So. Back to shoes. As you can see, I have a lot of them, and they all fit. They all pertain to me. They’re all things I’m interested in. But I obviously can’t wear all of them at once, and some of them do get worn more often than others. I have this pair of [actual] shoes that I really love. They’ve got about a 4-inch heel, so I’m roughly 6’2″ when I wear them and it’s incredibly awesome. But I can’t wear them for more than a couple of hours (sometimes less if I’m doing a lot of standing or walking around) or else my feet start killing me. Am I going to get rid of them just because of that? Of course not. I’ll set them aside and save them for a time when I need them, maybe a big presentation I have to give. Yeah, I’ll probably have to dust them off a bit and polish them up, but they’re still there.

You may be wondering if there’s been a point to all of this. The answer is yes; I do tend to just ramble sometimes, but this time there’s a method to my madness. Throughout this whole writing adventure, I’ve seen an alarming number of authors say they’ve “had to quit __________ to focus on writing.” I’m always really sad to hear that. Sure, we all deal with time constraints, but if you love doing something, you shouldn’t have to give it up. You can always make time for it. I would know — I wrote the majority of Ronan while going to school full time, during which I completed the aforementioned senior project, and I still managed to sneak some art, gaming, and volleyball in there (sheesh, no wonder I was exhausted).

Yes, writing has kind of become a priority these days, but I’m not going to sacrifice my other interests. In fact, I’ve been trying to do what I can to augment my writing WITH those other interests. Art and graphic design have come in really handy in the realm of marketing my books; I’ve designed posters, bookmarks, business cards, you name it. My love of data has made it really fun to track sales and see if said marketing tactics are generating traffic. I was one of the beta testers for authorRise so I’ve still been able to use it for free. It’s pretty rudimentary, but it’s still fun to see if Twitter has an effect on book sales. And of course the publishing experience has given me the opportunity to interact with people all over the world, so my inner geography nerd is almost constantly ecstatic. There was a point in time where, aside from the U.S., my biggest Kindle markets were Australia and Germany, and I thought that was really interesting. Music has of course been a huge help as well. I don’t typically listen while I’m actually writing, but I have my Hans Zimmer Pandora station playing while I’m editing or working on concept art. Back when I was still in the process of working on Ronan, I’d blast Two Steps From Hell in my headphones while I was at the gym and envision the space battles and other action scenes. Now volleyball doesn’t really do anything to help my writing (although I got a lot of Nexus editing done during long car rides to away games last season), but gaming is something I have in common with a lot of writers I’ve met and has honestly helped from a networking standpoint.

TL;DR? I’m going to keep all of my shoes and wear them whenever I can. Yeah, I have a lot of them, but I never know when they might come in handy.

Don’t forget to add Ronan: Ziva Payvan Book 3 to Goodreads!

Coming September 1. 

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