I’ve known for a very long time that I wanted to be a writer. I got my start writing fanfiction (long before AO3) and fanfiction by its nature is a hobby. Writing was what I did in my spare time. It was how I kept myself from being bored to tears in class. I always had an idea brewing, something to tinker with.
Over time, writing became a more serious pursuit. I think of myself as having two careers, one for my day job and one in writing. I’m dedicated to the latter, with ongoing professional education and constant tending to my projects.
I think it was on Twitter that someone asked, “What are your hobbies beyond writing?”
I realized I no longer had any.
I’d let writing go from hobby to aspiration to work, and forgotten that writing was no longer a hobby. Because I still enjoy writing part of me doesn’t see it as ‘work’ in the same way other things are work. It’s something I get to do, rather than have to do.
But over time, as I publish more, it’s going to become more and more something that I have to do. It’ll become more like other kinds of work. If I ever fall out of love with it it won’t be worth continuing, but I know there will be days and deadlines that I’ll dread.
I need a hobby. And you do, too. Here’s why.
Hobbies expand your mind by asking it to do new and different things.
Humans are really, really good at problem solving. It’s why we’re planet Earth’s apex predator. Whether your hobby is intellectually stimulating or a creative outlet, it almost certainly involves solving some kind of puzzle. Athletes are looking to better their times and scores, composers want to evoke emotion through sound, and even stamp collectors are on the hunt for the next find.
All this problem solving stretches the brain. There’s a reason so many TV shows feature the hero solving the crime of the week because they encountered a jelly donut and had an idea: our brains really do work that way! (Not as reliably as a TV heroine’s will, sure.) Taking a break from your usual problems to solve other problems can help you with the original problems.
Hobbies are disconnected from the drive to make money.
Capitalism constantly pressures us to be busy worker bees, always on the go, always hustling. If you’re not you’ll fall behind and lose your job and your house and your car and—BREATHE. Deeply.
We are not drones or robots capable of stamping out widgets every day unabated for 40 years. Our brains and bodies need a break from work. We need space where we don’t feel the pressure to “succeed” all the time. We need things that are just for our own enjoyment.
You don’t have to be good at your hobby, you just have to love it.
This is more Twitter wisdom, and every time I see it I’m struck anew by how true it is: you need something you enjoy doing regardless of how good you may be at it.
Granted, if you do a thing a lot you’ll get better at it, and we tend to prefer things we’re good at. But part of rejecting the constant call for “success” is taking joy from things we’re just plan bad at. Capitalism demands to know why you’re “wasting time” on it. But it’s not a waste if you enjoy it!
It’s okay to prioritize your hobbies.
Want to go to a jazz show but your friends want to see a movie? It’s fine to choose the thing you’d rather do! Go to the jazz show! (Invite your friends!) This is prioritizing your happiness, and is a form of self care.
Spend money on your hobby to the degree you’re comfortable and happy with. If you don’t mind foregoing one thing to save up for another, don’t let anyone else make you feel bad about it!
When you prioritize your happiness you’re helping yourself on multiple levels. You’re valuing yourself, your health, your state of mind. All very important to leading a fulfilling life.
So, what hobby have I chosen? I’m drawing again. I used to make a lot of art in high school and somehow I lost that to my day job ambitions as a graphic designer, and it paled in comparison to writing. I knew I could be a great writer, that I could publish, that I could make that dream a reality. I didn’t have the same confidence in my art.
Being good at drawing isn’t important for me. What’s important is that I enjoy it.
I remembered that Inktober is a thing—basically, draw something with ink every day in October. (It’s okay to use pencil first.) I figured having a challenge with some rules would help me get back in the habit or drawing regularly.
I decided that for Inktober 2019 I would only draw fanart. Yep, full circle. Back to my roots, back to something that is by definition a hobby. It is possible to make money off fanart but it’s by no means the goal, so I knew that all my inks would be purely to please myself and my friends.
I was also 100% prepared to suck at this. I hadn’t drawn seriously, or inked anything by hand, in at least five years. I accepted that there would be mistakes. And I resolved to let the majority of them slide.
And yet, I made some art I’m pretty happy with! Here’s a sampling. I’ve been posting these to Instagram.
There have been real benefits to doing this challenge. I’m rediscovering an activity I used to love. I’m relaxing and enjoying it, forgetting for an hour or so a day about all the other stuff that needs to be done. I’m nourishing something in myself.
Writing is a tough dream. And sometimes you will need a break: a hobby. What do you do in your true downtime when you’re not writing?