Hobbies are for losers. I say this because the people who are in it to win it, to do something real, something big, something life changing, don’t call it a hobby; they call it their life.
Of course our lives consist of things that we do for fun, relaxation, things that don’t feel like work. I get that. Just because you like baking doesn’t mean you need to open a bake shop. But what I’m telling you is that the hobby mindset is a cop-out. You want to spend hours every day or whole weekends putting ships in jars? Have at it.
But chances are the thing you want to do, that you feel most passionate about, that you would love to do “for real,” is something you’re calling a hobby because it lowers the stakes. Makes it feel safer, smaller, under control. If you’re good at something you’re “not really trying” to do, then you get to be good at your hobby. But you’re also chickening out.
No, I don’t think you should work around the clock or be in work-brain all the time. Nor do I think you shouldn’t DO anything else but your job. One guy said it perfectly on Twitter: “I gave up hobbies when I was a kid. I only have time for passions now.”
If what you’re doing–all the cool things you’re doing–are a passion and feed you and your vision of your life in some way, great. It’s the hobby mindset that is the problem, and doing things just to do them, that ends up being a problem. (P.S. If you’re really happy doing what you’re doing, great. Then you’re not who I’m speaking to. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. But if you want to throw that shoe at me, must mean I’ve hit a nerve.)
I Don’t Have Hobbies
I always drew a blank at the hobby question on an application or questionnaire, and then later with online dating profiles. I wondered why I didn’t have a hobby. I worried I should pick one up. Then I realized how fucking stupid that is. I realized that I don’t have a hobby because I take everything I do seriously. I don’t play at things I like. I go for them full throttle.
I’m a writer, always have been, and wrote poetry since I was a kid. But I never once called it a hobby. I went on to earn a masters of fine art in poetry, and write and edit at a major national magazine. I didn’t get there by writing as a hobby.
I also take improv classes. I don’t aspire to be a full-time improv actor, but I do want to explore performing in that way for real. I use what I learn in those places to fuel the bigger vision of my life–to be a performer. I don’t excuse it as “just a hobby.” It’s what I’m learning to do now.
What about you? That book you’re toying with, the blog you’re kinda sorta doing but not really, the acting or art classes you’re taking–if you view it as a hobby, it’s going nowhere fast. And that’s because you don’t really believe you could do it–or, you’re afraid to admit it.
Why People Have Hobbies
You know why people need hobbies? Because they fucking hate what they do. (Not everyone, but a lot.) They spend hours at a job they detest or in a place they hate or even with a person they’ve grown to loathe. Or, maybe they’re not miserable, but they’re bored or stressed, and do lots of little things to “take the edge off.”
But is that what you want? Really? To take the edge off? To make a life you don’t love tolerable, palatable, ok? Not me.
The person who puts their dreams/desires/yearnings on hold or jams them into a tiny box labeled “hobby” aren’t doing enough to achieve what they want–and that may not mean to be a superstar. It may be to continue to learn and try new things, maybe become expert. Great. Just stop calling it a fucking hobby. Hobbies by design risk nothing. No one will be disappointed if you don’t finish a project or improve at something. It was just a hobby, after all.
To start taking something seriously requires that you do some soul-searching, ask yourself what you really want, what you’re afraid of. People don’t like to face these questions. And hobbies give you the best excuse in the world to be too busy to do it.
My ex-boyfriend disagrees with me. “Not everyone wants to do something big or be someone like you do,” he said one night, exasperated. He swore up and down that some people want simple, quiet lives. I don’t believe him. I think, if given the chance, everyone would like to be able to do something meaningful, and perhaps even influence and excite or even teach others. When you call this shit a hobby, you do it and your own passions a disservice.
Take it from The King of All Media
Howard Stern is one of the most influential and successful radio broadcasters of all time–perhaps THE most. He does that thing well. And in the many years I’ve been faithfully listening, I’ve heard him try hobby after hobby. He tried chess but quit because he knew he’d never be that great at it. He’s incredibly driven and was never going to be ok with being just ok. In recent years he’s taken up photography, and he apprenticed himself to it and is relentlessly focused on it. ”I want to be the best,” he said, “as good as any professional. I don’t do half assed.”
To call something a hobby is to apologize for either not being good enough or not trying hard enough. And that’s not enough for you. That’s not what makes a life transformative, exciting. You’re not here on the planet to bide your time with hobbies until you drop dead. Your life is not a pet project. So stop treating it that way.