Side Hustles and Other Feats of Magic

by Fae Rowen

Years ago when I was thinking about a career change (no, not to "writer") a friend said something that stuck with me. "Your job is just the pump that primes the well." Before that, my job was my all, my place in life, my reason for being.

Now my "main hustle" fuels my writing. I teach, and that provides the shelter and food necessary to sustain life. It also provides many other nice things to have in our modern economy, acting as the credit card for the "side hustles" which inform and fuel my writing.

Travel is important to me as a writer. I get to immerse myself in foreign cultures, try new modes of transportation, clothing, art, and food. When I knew I was going to spend a month in Egypt and Jordan, I took a belly-dancing class. I'm not a dancer; belly-dancing was a real challenge. On the second class the teacher said something like, "Just roll your stomach muscles." Excuse me? The only stomach muscles I know about are busy chewing up that brownie I had at lunch. Despairing of my inability to perform a "belly roll" (yes, think jelly roll) the teacher stood in front of me, pulled up my shirt two inches and said, "Show me how you move this."

I tried. I imagined what that skin should look like when it rolled, I pulled in places of my torso better left unknown and untouched. Then I pushed them out. Nothing in that small exposed area of skin moved. The teacher, who was at least twenty years older than me, shook her head. "I don't know what to say." Neither did I. But I learned the shoulder shimmy, the neck roll, and boy, could I use a veil!

Those experiences lead to a chapter in a book where my main character, a promising ballet student who'd had a serious accident and could no longer perform ballet, learned belly dancing and performed with a friend's traveling troupe. She didn't know it, but the contractor she'd had trouble working with was in the audience. Let's just say belly dancing can smooth over a lot of difficulties.

Improving my craft is important, so I attend conferences, take classes, and read articles and books on writing. Because I believe in giving back, I also write articles and blogs, like this one, speak at conferences and judge contests to help other writers with inspiration and craft skills. I get together with writing friends for writing retreat time.

On a daily basis I either hike trails and look at wildlife or work out with a trainer. Both provide fodder for my imagination and book ideas. "What would this creek look like on a world that has no plants and no animals?" (Sorry, I write science fiction, so much of my musing doesn't sound very sane.) I also love to cook, so, of course, my characters love to eat.

Virtually any place I go, anything I do is fair game for a writing "side hustle" from baby-sitting the kids next door to a spa day with my friends to a long rainy day spent by the fireplace with a book by a favorite author. Reading is always one of my go-to side hustles. I love feeling those emotions, those surprises, and those gasped breaths as much as any reader of a good book.

One summer I decided that I would use a magic trick once a week during my lectures the following semester to illustrate a point, make my students dig for the truth, or just have some fun. I took magic lessons. In fact, I worked as a magician's assistant to make sure I had the "real deal" as to how tricks were performed. From then on, my students were very happy about that side hustle. I was, too. After the first trick of the year, I can get their attention, their real attention, just by reaching for a prop, like a box of matches, a deck of cards, or by wadding up a piece of paper. My first magic endeavor was a mind reading trick that ended with my use of flash paper—which is sadly illegal now. Most of you probably don't know that mathematicians were also called magicians in Ancient Greece. Rightly so, since so many magic tricks are based on mathematics.

But I digress. Everyone's side hustles will be different, based on your interests and your "main hustle." Once your main hustle is perfected, you have more time to spend on side hustles, which can bring more creativity to your writing.

The key is to enjoy whatever you do. That will make you a better participant and more aware of your actions, your emotions, and the reactions of the people around you. Which will make you a better writer.

What is your favorite side hustle?

I want to thank all of you for reading my personal stories and thoughts during the past years. You have helped me soften the barriers between author and reader, and I am humbly grateful to you for that. This is my last post with YA Outside the Lines. I've decided to focus on finishing and publishing two science fiction series for adults, so, for awhile, I won't be working on YA titles once PRISM 2: Rebellion is available for pre-order by the end of this year.

About Fae

Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Fae's second book in the series will be available for pre-order on Christmas, 2019.


  1. Love that point you make about having more time for side-hustles once you perfect your main hustle. So true.


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