Throughout my life, I get super-interested in certain topics and go all-in, becoming completely absorbed in the subject for weeks, months, or sometimes years. Eventually, when I’ve learned everything worth knowing, I become bored of the subject and move on to something else, becoming super-interested in that new topic… until I’m not. Then the cycle repeats again.
Examples from earlier in my life are dinosaurs, sharks, tigers, fighter jets, cars, espionage, archaeology, and outer space. My interests would also vacillate between different sports and games including baseball, basketball, football, skateboarding, snowboarding, golf, and poker.
At different points in my life I would be all-in on that one subject, reading and thinking about it as much as I could everyday. I would forgo all my other interests to stay fully focused on the current one—until I moved on to the next one. That cycle continues to this day.
I go into deep rabbit holes on different intellectual topics such as the simulation theory, artificial intelligence, time travel, evolutionary psychology, Bitcoin, libertarian philosophy, and ancient civilizations. I also become obsessed with different authors at different times, such as Franz Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick, Thomas Ligotti, and Ted Chiang. Sometimes I’m more into sci-fi, other times I’m more into horror. Sometimes I’m into the far-future, other times I’m into ancient history. Most of those topics fall under the larger umbrella of the “weird,” which has been one interest that has stayed steady for many years now. It’s just my particular weird fascination that varies at any given time.
That is why I love being a fiction writer. It offers me the opportunity to go deep on any topic I wish and include that research and information in a fictional story. I can be fully devoted to that topic while writing the story, then by the time I finish I’ll probably be bored of that particular topic and want to move on to something else—which I can. For my next story I can delve into a completely different topic that is fresh and interesting. Or if I remain interested in the subject I can explore it further in a sequel or a new story.
I don’t know that I could ever have a traditional career like an academic where you must devote your entire life to one subject. For instance, when I was a child I was fascinated by sharks. I watched “Shark Week” on Discovery Channel every year, would read and re-read books about sharks, and was able to identify every species by sight. I had dreams of becoming a marine biologist when I grew older so I could study sharks full-time.
But eventually my interest in sharks waned. I never stopped finding sharks interesting, but I reached a sort of stalemate in which I felt I knew enough and didn’t need to study them any further. Once I feel I have a firm grasp on a subject, I become bored by it and want to learn about something new. I stopped watching “Shark Week,” which felt like re-treads of the same information. I no longer wished to be a marine biologist. Of course I know the actual scientists who are studying sharks are always uncovering new information, and there’s still so much we don’t know about sharks. I’m thankful somebody is doing that work—but I wouldn’t want it to be me. I can’t imagine devoting my entire life to studying sharks or any single subject, as interesting as that subject may be.
I much prefer the job of a fiction writer where I can become fully immersed in a topic then abandon it forever. Though it is not always forever. Sometimes a former interest of mine re-surfaces (no pun intended). A few years ago I became re-interested in sharks when I learned about the shark-finning issue that results in the killing of hundreds of millions of sharks each year. I was writing screenplays at that point, and I was struck with the idea to write a movie about the topic. I researched shark-finning while also using the vast knowledge of sharks I already had from childhood to write a screenplay (which I’m now working on adapting into a novella).
I love being a fiction writer because it affords me the freedom to dip in and out of whatever rabbit hole I’m drawn to at any given time. I can go as deep as I want and come out for air when I please. It’s the best of all worlds.