The Unapologetic Hobbyist

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” – Julia Child

Do you have any hobbies?

Before you answer, take some time to think about how you feel about the question. When we make time on a regular basis for our hobbies, we might be accused of having too much time on our hands, being frivolous, or ignoring other, more important responsibilities. However, I am clearly most happy and creative when I make time in my life for hobbies, even when that means I must delegate, postpone, or even drop altogether other tasks, or when my hobbies require time alone rather than with other people.

We can begin to think about the role of hobbies in our lives by remembering childhood hobbies. I went through a series of hobbies when I was young: stamp collecting, complete with a starter kit of stamps ready to place in a binder; coin collecting (alas, no starter kit for that one); collecting every newspaper account of the Minnesota Vikings and pasting them all in a scrapbook with notes and captions (this was more successful). Over time, however, I’ve learned that collecting as a hobby isn’t something that gives me much satisfaction.

Some childhood hobbies I think I would have enjoyed more had I had more skills of time management and planning. I’ve always wanted to learn to be more proficient at drawing, but I mistakenly thought that I could doodle once in a while and somehow magically get better. Piano lessons were a similar though slightly more successful experience. When I was young, I hadn’t made the connection between working diligently to learn the basics in order truly to enjoy a certain level of mastery. Sure, I moved through the John Thompson piano grades and played well enough to accompany my high school chorus, but, because I wasn’t giving this hobby my all—I treated it a chore rather than a passion—true enjoyment from it remained elusive. I often “crammed” my practice into the last couple of days before a lesson, so the experiences of both practicing and learning new material were more stressful than relaxing.

I learned to knit and crochet from my mother and grandmother, but I never thought of these activities as hobbies until I became an adult. Why is that, I wonder? My enjoyment of needlework now comes mainly from tweaking patterns, working with the highest quality yarns and crochet threads I can afford (mainly for the feel of them against my fingers), and making gifts for friends and family, such as this pair of socks for my niece.

I remember going through a period as a child when I consciously took up hobbies, then I didn’t think about hobbies for a very long time, perhaps because college and graduate school, marriage and motherhood filled my time. Or did aspects of these activities become hobbies?

In any case, I find myself now thinking of hobbies again, knowing I need to integrate them into my life more, wondering how to enhance the enjoyment of the ones I have, and asking if I want to take up any new hobbies.

  • What hobbies did you have as a child?
  • Have any of them continued to be a part of your life?
  • Are hobbies important to your sense of well-being?
  • Have you ever felt guilty for making time for hobbies?

5 thoughts on “The Unapologetic Hobbyist

  1. As a child, I didn’t really have any hobbies, but as an adult, I’ve acquired a few. For example took up knitting a few years ago, at the moment I’m trying calligraphy, and I am planning to learn how to make a dress next. I’ve never felt guilty for making time for my hobbies, I think I took up leaning these things because I was feeling like I was wasting time being idle. Nice post. :-)

  2. I’m a hobby-aholic! Yes, often I feel guilty that X or Y doesn’t get done, but taking time for myself is important as the mom of two little kids. My weekly knitting group allows me to combine hobby and social time. We meet at a great cafe, so there’s food involved, and I’m usually working on a gift, so that makes me happy, too. Knitting is the only hobby I have time for right now; my first priority for quiet time is writing my novel, which I approach more like a job. (By the way, those are beautiful socks, Lisa!)

    I had all kinds of hobbies as a kid, including coin collecting, all kinds of crafts and playing the flute. I miss music, but hopefully I’ll be able to pick it back up someday when I have a little more time. I’d love to learn to sew. And how to crochet. And to do something artistic with the many photos I take. But knitting will have to do for now.

  3. Hobbies often mean we are “making” something, and making things is ever so satisfying. We just turned our “office” room into a “project” room. I cleared shelves in a bookcase for my daughter’s and my “projects in-progress.” Currently that includes: knitting, sewing, a robotic lego project, and writing projects. We love having our hobbies out in the open, where they can more easily tempt us away from all of the things we are supposed to do. I stopped closing the piano years ago (who cares about dust) so that it was easier to just walk over and play. We learned how to quilt during two years of home schooling and my daughter said while we were reading American history, “Anyone who said women weren’t as smart as men should have tried sewing a quilt.” Hobbies are empowering.

  4. I didn’t have any hobbies as a child. Mostly reading and living in my imagination.

    After high school and all the way into college, I worked and went to school, and didn’t have time for hobbies, unless you count writing letters to friends. I had a few pen-pals. I had some friends I hung out with. Dated a little bit. Went dancing with my girl friends.

    After college I worked full-time in microbiology, I took some grad-level classes, and I still didn’t have any hobbies. I worked, went out with coworkers after work. I didn’t have the time, nor really any knowledge or talent. Same thing after two more job changes – in forensics and medical genetics. Other than writing occasionally, my work really challenged me so all I wanted to do when I was off work was relax.

    After I came home to be with my daughters, that’s when I started having hobbies. I taught myself to use a sewing machine and hand embroider. I made handmade toys for a while and some blankets. I then turned to writing and then to photography. Then I just recently got started with art journaling. I have done a LOT of science experiments over the years with my girls. And of course, I’m still reading.

    I used to feel guilty about my hobbies, until over the years I realized it’s the creative effort that goes into my hobbies but that creativity spills over into other areas too. It helps me think outside of the box in other ways. It also reduces the sense of isolation I have from time to time. It reduces depression. It slows down an over-active mind and it’s meditative. I believe it’s actually crucial to our mental and physical health to have creative outlets.

    It’s only social conditioning that makes us feel guilty. Human beings are creators. Those who are stifled in their desires to create are up for some serious stress.

    My daughters take their own hobbies seriously because I do too. They share with me a love of reading and writing. They art journal too.

    I like Nikola Tesla’s view of his mother. His mother was a traditional housewife. He spoke very highly of his mother, and credited his photographic memory and inventive genius to her. He wrote this about her (as written in Margaret Cheney’s Tesla: Man out of Time):

    “An inventor of the first order and would, I believe, have achieved great things had she not been so remote from modern life and its multifold opportunities. She invented and constructed all kinds of tools and devices and wove the finest designs from thread which was spun by her. She even planted the seeds, raised the plants, and separated the fibers herself. She worked indefatigably, from break of day till late at night, and most of the wearing apparel and furnishings of the home was the product of her hands.”

    So, these things, like sewing and knitting and gardening and what not, are now considered hobbies (because why make anything from hand now that anything you need can be purchased)…but once upon a time, these things were absolutely vital to survival.

    I think if more people had creative hobbies and took their hobbies seriously, there would be a lot fewer unhappy, stressed-out people in the world.v

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