Being a journalist is all about being willing to try new things. After all, if we stay in our little bubbles and only write or talk about what we know, then yes, we may write insanely good copy regarding French parliamentary elections, but we will have a very limited career. In fact, we probably won't have a job.
As my journalism lecturers have told us over and over during the past three years, the best journalists are ones with a wide range of experiences and interests. It's why we are encouraged to seek a placement that is outside of what we might be comfortable with. It's actually why we are encouraged to seek a placement in the first place. When we are applying for jobs in a year's time, if our CV shows that all we have written about is chocolate bars and all our work experience is with the local chocolate factory, we might get a job there. But good luck getting a job at the BBC.
And as a writer as well as a journalist, having a wider range of experiences helps my skills grow. We are always told to write what we know. The more I know, the more I will be able to write about. And the more experiences I have the more stuff will bleed through into my writing, and make it more interesting to read.
However if you ask me, this is something that should apply to everyone, not just journalists or writers - or in my case a prospective journalist and writer. A web designer whose only hobby is developing more web programs, will probably be brilliant at any job in that field. But they will also be boring as heck, and not a person that you would want to sit next to at a dinner party. But on the other hand, a web designer with a passing interest in science, or history, or comic books, is going to be someone well worth talking to.
Our hobbies help us become more rounded people and also help us increase our social circles. As a journalist I have obviously met some very interesting people. But it was as a fan of CS Lewis' Narnia series that I met some of my closest online friends - friends who helped me get through a very dark period of my life. I wouldn't have met these people if I had focused all my time and energy on learning about politics, or economics or what have you. My hobbies, and interests are a vital part of who I am, and by doing things I haven't done before I grow as a person.
That's why by the time you read this I will have come back from a weekend at Silverstone, with my girlfriend and her family, watching the British Touring Car Championship. I know a little less than absolutely nothing about motorsport, and I'm sure I will have spent the weekend going, "Huh?" and "Whose that?" and "What just happened?" But I'm also sure that I will have learnt something new.
I'll be sure to tell you about it next week.