I don’t mean to presume that you care, but some people are curious. If you are, here goes:
Many academics harbor a fantasy that perhaps one day they will write a novel. I used to be one of those, especially because I tend to see the professional environments I’ve been in as awesome mystery plots just waiting to happen. A nice thing about progressing through one’s thirties is that one comes to be more at peace with one’s limitations, and a limitation of mine is that any novel I wrote would suck. It would have a few good animating ideas, sentences, and bits of dialogue, but connecting them would be stretches that are weak, awkward, trite, and otherwise dismal. The end product would excruciating for even loved ones to read, and I’m fine with that.*
Yet I did greatly enjoy a short-short fiction class that I took a couple years ago. “Short short” being 250-1000 words.** With short short fiction, you can have a go at being clever, you don’t have to worry about the connective tissue between scenes that destroys the amateur novelist, and it’s basically done by the time you’ve concluded that it sucks.
As I’ve said before, I also enjoy computer programming. It’s what I would want to do full time if I couldn’t be a professor. I can spent hours engrossed in it, with a continual sense of the reward you feel when you are working out a puzzle. Debugging is tedious, of course, but even with that you get a sense of progress->progress->progress until finally something gets done.
My secret hobby project is the sedentary counterpart to chess boxing: putting together short fiction and computer programming.
If you were around in the 1980’s, remember all-text adventure games like Zork? Well, nobody does that for money anymore, but there is a thriving indie culture for “interactive fiction.” The games are shorter and more diverse, and in my opinion the best games are better than their for-profit predecessors.
Kind of like comics, only there are no drawings and you have to type stuff.
There is an annual contest. My secret hobby project is that I am working on a game for it. I am happy just that I will be completing an entry, as I feel I’m doing a bit toward reclaiming a creative side of myself that hasn’t been as satisfied by my job as I might like. But, as motivation, I have also officially set a goal of trying to finish eighth in this contest. In more exuberant moments, I revise this goal upward to fifth.
Most interactive fiction is sci-fi/fantasy, broadly defined. My game is not. There are no monsters, treasure chests, swords, dungeons, zombies, caves, spells, spaceships, or alien pirates (not that there is anything wrong with games featuring those). Instead, my game is about a graduate student who has a problem with his dissertation.
I have an alpha version, so this is neither vaporware nor a joke.
* One could write a sucky novel just for the joy of writing, I suppose, but, for me, initial writing enthusiasm would soon be undermined by awareness of ultimate suckitude that would lead then to loss of motivation and project abandonment.
** For example, there was a recent thread on this blog about hooking up at conferences, here was my (non-autobiographical) story about that.