A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that the bulk of my time was spent on creative writing and academia. Granted, that’s probably what you’d expect from a creative writer who’s also a teacher and a doctoral student, but it seemed almost overwhelming. I felt one-dimensional. I was worried that I had tunnel-vision, and that my creativity would suffer because of it. Because of all that, I decided that I needed a new recreational activity. I have a tendency to turn to other art forms for this sort of thing. In the past, I’ve worked with acting and visual arts. This time, I was drawn to music. I happened to watch a movie that featured a theremin, and decided that I might want one. I did all sorts of online research, became awestruck by Clara Rockmore, and ultimately bought a relatively inexpensive pitch/volume theremin. I’ve been playing almost every day, and what I love about it is that it doesn’t feel dire. My writerly and academic pursuits can sometimes feel really weighty because they’re such a big part of my identity. When I think about not being a writer or not being an academic, I feel like I don’t know who I am. (Psychologically, this is probably not super healthy, but psychological soundness has never been my primary goal in life anyway.) I’m sure that many people feel this way about their passions. I cope with this by adding other things into my life. Maybe these things won’t become the core ingredients of my identity, but sometimes they become the spices. They become the subtleties that make me feel like I have more than one dimension. I love playing the theremin, but nothing about that experience is quantified or qualified by performances evaluations and publications. It unlocks a sort of freedom that translates into the other, more “serious” areas of my life and makes me a more innovative and productive writer, scholar, and teacher. What artist doesn’t want that sort of growth in their life? I guess the moral of the story is that taking a break from what you’re serious about can make you better at it. And if, in the process, you can learn to play spooky, electronic versions of every tv sci-fi theme song from the past twenty years, so much the better for you!
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