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.

The Changing Face of Friendship

I read a short article in Psychologies Magazine the other day about friendship.

Apparently new research has suggested that being able to predict how a friend would react in a given situation is a sign of how strong your friendship is.

Now, if you know me at all you know that in Real Life I’m not the most sociable, being chronically shy and having only a few close friends rather than a large group. By far most of my contact is online with friends I have made through Twitter and Facebook, with some existing relationships BF (Before Facebook) being strengthened through the confidence boost I get by not having the pressure of face-to-face contact (Funnily enough, in a professional capacity eg when I was working as a nursery nurse or a guide at Beamish Museum, this pressure was actually relieved. Will blog about this in its own right I think). And you do wonder, every now and then, whether the doom-predictors and nay-sayers are right and that our relationships are becoming more shallow and suffering through not having more face-to-face contact. Until now I’ve rather timidly disagreed but this research is making me stick my neck out and disagree more emphatically.

If this is a good guide of friendship, then I have made some very real, lasting and solid friendships and I have a big network of friends. I can say that there are many people I count as online friends that I could confidently predict their reactions to a whole range of situations. Up until now, I may have mentally categorised these friendships as Online Friendships (other than a few), or had an argument prepared in my head in defence of these relationships for those who’d say they were less valuable than real-life ones. On the contrary, I cannot think of many Real Life friends that I could do a similar exercise with with the same confidence.

Of course, this is assuming that you accept this as a good test of how well you know someone. I’d say it’s an extremely good test, as it indicates an empathy with someone. I might not know where someone went to school or who their first crush was but I’d bet I could tell you their reaction to a piece of news or a government policy. I’d say that was far greater depth of friendship and understanding than most people have with some of their work colleagues who they see, in the flesh, every day. It’s merely a shift in understanding of the concept of friendship. A computer doesn’t have to be a big clunky tower and monitor, a book isn’t necessarily a bunch of paper within a cardboard cover. Friendships don’t need face-to-face contact to thrive and blossom.

So, to all my online friends reading this, here’s a toast to the changing face of friendship. And to you.