I’ve found myself reading a lot lately, particularly nonfiction. I go through phases where I’ll read a lot, then periods where I don’t much. But I definitely find myself happier and more.... stimulated when I’m actively reading a great deal.
My academic background is a bit… all over the place. One of the reasons I didn’t finish my graduate work in the past was because I find that I don’t specialize well, and my interests tend to run all over the place. I wasn’t comfortable with the constraints caused by specialization that’s so required in advanced academia (though that’s ultimately secondary to the depression and mindset that caused the bulk of my issues there.)
As an undergrad, I was a history major that focused on medieval and early modern Europe. As a religion major (I graduated as a double major), I focused primarily on early Christian history and the formation of the canon. My graduate work in religious studies was also varied, but I was drawn primarily to Middle Eastern studies. I think I’m most strongly drawn, in general, to the military, religious, and institutional interactions in the Middle East, from the Crusades to colonialism to the post-WWII era of nationalism, Cold War diplomacy, and the rise of religious fundamentalism (though I’m still interested and frequently read about other subjects.)
I think that’s an area that I want to figure out how to incorporate into career options and, most importantly, my writing. I think that’s a big part of why I waffle on graduate programs in creative writing vs applied/professional writing. I want to do both, but it’s hard to find programs that accommodate both like I want. I do, though, think that’s the route I want to take. Perhaps focus on things like blogging, journalism, nonfiction writing related to the subjects I’ve studied while using creative writing as an outlet for storytelling and working with more thematic subjects (like the WWII and religious themes in The Lord of the Rings) or questions about religion in works like Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land or Hosseini’s Kite Runner.
I’m not sure just yet where to go with all of this, but it’s been on my mind a lot, especially given my recent reading material. I read a book on the Six Day War (June 1967) that was so foundational in modern Palestinian-Israeli interactions. Then I just finished a new book on the Crusades told through primarily Muslim sources (Crusade books usually use one side or other both because of biases and because of language barriers), and now I’m actually reading parts of a grad school textbook on the foundations of the modern Middle East, focusing on the latter 1800’s through the first Gulf War in the early 90’s. It’s just got my brain working, especially now that I’ve managed to deal with most of my outstanding debt (so grad school could be more financially feasible) and as I’m starting to recover from the emotional burnout of the past year or so (though there’s still a long way to go on that.)