Freedom of the Renaissance Soul

As my long-suffering husband knows, I tend to flit between many and varied interests. I think I have always done so; at least, I can’t remember ever not. When you’re a child, this is ok, even encouraged. The more you find out about the world and the more curiosity you have, the more you can both get out of life and give back. Your mind is broader and your life enriched when you have a range of hobbies as a child.

Getting older, this changes for some reason. Or I think it does, I’ve felt that it does. I’ve felt guilty that I’ve taken up a hobby only to find a Shiny New Hobby a few months later then to return to the original one a few years after that. I feel like at my age (the advanced age of 30) I should be settled enough to know what I am interested in and to stick to it. That not being able to do that means I have the attention span of a flea. Or worse, a child.

This can be quite a depressing feeling, it turns out. If you’re not careful it can easily turn into “I must be a failure because I can’t even stick to a hobby” which turns into “I am a failure at LIFE” which turns into “I need ice cream” which turns into… well, you get the picture.

But a couple of weeks ago I read Psychologies magazine (which I really recommend, some very inspiring and interesting articles in that!) and there was a review of a book calledRefuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. It described me. Now, I haven’t read this book yet but both that and a similar one called The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine are high on my to-read list. Basically, it’s about people who Sher calls ‘scanners’ who have a wide variety of interests that they focus on for short periods of time instead of one or two passions.

The idea that not only is this common enough to have people write books about it but that it’s actually a positive thing (judging by the samples I’ve read) is amazingly liberating. As Lobenstine points out, Leonardo da Vinci ‘dabbled’ in a HUGE range of pursuits. I’m not comparing myself to Leo, but, y’know… *shuffles feet and smirks*

The result, along with a few other things that I’ve been working out for myself lately, is that I feel freed to flit from interest to interest without feeling I’m a failure but more that I’m curious and interested and I want to know more, more, more and that that isn’t a bad thing. I spent a glorious half hour scribbling down all the things I’m interested in (and by the way, people like me are AMAZINGLY easy to buy presents for since a book on any of my many hobbies will go down well! Just sayin’…) and I know that there are certain ones that come up again and again. It turns an attitude of ‘I’m a flippertigibbet’ into ‘I’m a Life Investigator’ (or similarly hippy term of your choice). I went to the library the other day and came away with an armful of books on different things.

A side result is, for a writer, a virtually limitless well of inspiration. For example, I’m currently reading a beginner’s psychology guide, Use Your Head by Prof Daniel Freeman and his brother Jason Freeman which is fascinating but gives me a) a few ideas for future plot points but more importantly b) some psychological tips that will be good to remember when developing characters and relationships.

I imagine many creative people have this tendency to wander from one interest to another. Do most of them see it, as I did, as a failure or a lack of commitment to any one interest? Or do they give themselves permission to be curious and investigative? And how will my children be – more focused or more wide-ranging? Now there’s something to think about…

*Author’s note: This post should have been finished but I wandered off to read about something else…

PS I’d like to just draw people’s attention, if possible, to the fact that my lovely husband Andrew has started his own blog. Have a read here.

16 thoughts on “Freedom of the Renaissance Soul”

  1. This is so, so true.

    People expect you to have made your mind up about who you are by a certain age, but I think it’s completely ridiculous. There are so many wonderful ideas and thoughts out there, I don’t see why we should limit ourselves to just a few. I plan to go on discovering new things until I’m old and grey and talk nonsense. Oh … wait a minute …
    🙂 x

  2. Fascinating post. Interesting how we feel guilty about flitting between hobbies when this is the sign of a creative mind and can actually keep us healthy. I’m
    Sure there are some consistencies and as you say we come back to them at times (when we need them perhaps).
    This is as you say reminiscent of child play which is so important and it’s great that you can retain it and a sense of vitality.
    I do agree though that there are times when I wish I could concentrate more on one (Namely writing) to become better at it. Maybe one day.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is fascinating! I have travelled from one all absorbing passion to the next … and to me, life is all about learning … and the older I get (and I am VERY old and WHY are you SO young and SO wise already …?) the less I realise I know! While I admire people who have passion they devote their lives to, far too many people don’t bother to develop their minds at all and actually are proud of how little they know, classing things they don’t know as not worth knowing. What a waste of a brain … So, carry on flitting, I say!

  4. I recognise so much of myself in your descriptions, Becca, and I justify my failure to settle at any one thing as an interest in everything. I believe it keeps you young in your outlook and keeps you looking forward instead of living in the past.
    Be proud to be a butterfly!

  5. Hi. I was led to your blog through a tweet and I just want to say go for it! I’m closer to 50 than 40 and love trying out new things. I decided to stop worrying about what others think and just get out and do it! In the last few weeks I’ve written a song which is being recorded by a swedish celtic rock group, sang on a number one single, am going painting in a pub the week before christmas and am signed up for a photography course in January. This is despite the fact that I cant sing, cant paint and not one other individual had the slightest interest in joining me in any of these pursuits so I went on my own!

  6. …and if it weren’t for a certain flibbertigibet like you, I’d know nothing of musical theatre, the muppets, classical music, Quakers, pasta, Vietnam, the French Revolution or marmite (actually, you can take that last one back)…

    Another brilliant post.

    Oh, and I love you! xxx

  7. Thanks Kirsty! I have to admit it’s more a case of rediscovering/permitting vitality than retaining it though. Thank you for commenting!

  8. Gill, I just can’t help being so wise. It’s a burden – especially to my husband…

    I agree, many people prefer ignorance and that’s very hard to understand. I never wanted to be like that but I did want to have a hobby, a “thing” that was MY thing. Turns out the world, the universe is “my thing”!

    Thank you for a lovely comment!

  9. Thank you lovely Nettie. I am allowing myself to be a butterfly and without wishing to stretch the metaphor, it does feel a lot like flying high! Love it x

  10. Wow, go you! You sound as if you’re throwing yourself into life and I love it. Thank you so much for reading the post & sharing.

  11. But marmite is the crème de la crème!

    Thank you, and for putting up with all my whims and fancies. Love you too x

  12. This is interesting and I’ve been thinking about this recently. I think this is very common, most people would say they are like this but I do think it’s more of a female thing. It’s a bit of a cliché that women are good at multi tasking but clichés become clichés for a reason. Men are more likely to get engrossed in a certain hobby and stick with it for a while. It’s a bit of a generalisation but my male friends are far more likely to be obsessed by a certain band/football team etc and know everything about that thing whereas my female friends have more varied interests, knowing little bits about lots of things. I suppose from an evolutionary point of view men had to do that, they had to concentrate on tracking a particular animal, for hours, days even while women stayed behind and gathered lots of different herbs and plants while looking after children etc.
    Also, it means that life is never boring 🙂

  13. Hello! Not something I recognise personally, but interesting. Not sure why it’s a problem though. Hobbies shouldn’t have rules. I’m 50 and I used to have hobbies when my children were small. Now I don’t seem to have time because I’m working too hard and that feels baaaad. Flit between hobbies – they’ll keep you young! One day I think I’ll have them again.

  14. Back when I was an undergraduate (and I’m older than Deirdre!), I came across the concept of the butterfly mind, unable to settle to any one topic. In a book on gifted children. 😉

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