One of my weekly breaks from the hustle and bustle of both parenthood and PhD life is simming. I can hear the legions asking, what is simming?? Simming - online role playing games, the name is based off simulation. The group I am involved in, Federation Sim Fleet, have real time chat sims, play by email sims, and message board sims. And despite what the name suggests, they encompass lots of genre's not just Star Trek. Though Star Trek is the best! (Yes I'm a Trekker, have been for life! \\//,). And I have been doing this off and on since the early 90s.
One of things I loved about simming as a teen, still holds true as an adult, it allows me to pretend for an hour that I am an integral part of a fantastical world. I can be anyone I want, a nice person, a jackass, smart, stupid, naive, worldly, whatever background I create for my character I get to explore. It is a great character development exercise, especially for exploring the types of characters you struggle to write. And if you decide you do not like this character, or they have served their purpose, you can transfer them/kill them and get a new one!
Currently, I am on two sims. One, based in the Stargate universe, is a very active real time sim. Everyone meets at the same time on AIM (yes it still exists!) and types in real time to advance the storyline. These sims are great for not a lot of time, the only requirements are setting aside that one hour each week to be part of the action. The downside to chat sims is that most of the character development takes place during the hour and therefore is usually focused only during times of high action. The other, based in Star Trek, is an email sim that has it's ups and downs with posting. Email sims can be nice if you do not have a strict schedule and can make the weekly timed sims. They also provide the ability to post more in depth thoughts/opinions/actions of your character then you can do on chat. The downside is that story lines often progress slowly, they can grind almost to a halt for a while then start back up.
Recently, the group has started to put more energy into radio shows and I have started to do some voice work for them. I must admit I LOVE it. I started out just reading a post that I had written and the odd group Ramble On Skype chat, now I am getting to read other people's posts for the radio. I hope I get to do more of them. You can find the latest show here http://www.spreaker.com/user/4683063/fsf-radio-2-show-32.
If this voice acting things works out, maybe I will try reading my novels and publishing them sometime ;)