How’s that stamp collecting treating you?

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.

12 replies
  1. Isabelle
    Isabelle says:

    I never viewed hobbies the way you do because I saw the question ‘what are you hobbies’ to mean ‘what activities fill your time outside of work?’ and not to mean ‘what you are obsessed about, or half-hearted about?’.

    Most people I see ‘with a hobby problem’ are the obsessed types that are actually codependent upon their hobby as a way to self-define themselves. It doesn’t work, and it just undermines their sense of self-worth. I know several sports fanatics that feel that they are a better people when their team wins. They feel validated by it. And I know a far wider variety of people that try to define themselves via their hobbies ‘I am a guitar player, artist, writer, painter’ etc, in the hopes that it elevates their self-worth to others. (no body else’s opinion matters in your self-worth… only your own opinion matters… that is why it is called ‘self’ worth). This can be true of people’s jobs too… who hasn’t met a doctor who believes they are worth more than everyone else, simply because they are a doctor?

    And yes, definitely, lots of people use pass-times to numb out the rest of their lives. I totally agree with that. I call it ‘being asleep’. They don’t want to face or deal with something else, so they ‘make busy work’ for themselves so that they feel they have an excuse to be NOT dealing with the problem thing. Workaholics use work to avoid homelife. Sportsaholics use sports to avoid dealing with work stress. Etc.

    I feel that the label ‘hobby’ isn’t actually the issue… one could say ‘what do you do to entertain yourself when otherwise you would be idle?’ in lieu of ‘what are you hobbies?’ and that would be just as reasonable as a question. The real issue is using these pass-times as a crutch or bandaid for other things. No one really wants you to answer the question ‘what do you half-ass, and do half-heartedly in your life?’… all those things should just be thrown out. Either step up and get it done, or put it down, and stop wasting time. I totally agree with you there. But either way, stop pretending that it means something about you either way. Because the only thing it tells is whether or not you finished something.

  2. all-natural solution
    all-natural solution says:

    Have you ever thought about creating an ebook or guest authoring on other websites?
    I have a blog based upon on the same ideas you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information.

    I know my subscribers would value your work.

    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

    • terri
      terri says:

      Yes–that’s how you found me. I was sharing content with Jezebel. I also guest blog for Galtime, a few other places. I’d love to take a look and consider sharing stuff, sure–you didn’t say your website tho (bad girl! you shd be promoting it every chance you get!). Thanks! -T.

  3. Brian
    Brian says:

    I agree with your point to not relegate everything you’re passionate about to small corners of your life. And it’s true that the word ‘hobby’ has come to be almost dismissive of the value of what you’re doing. Just like the word amateur (which literally means “lover of”) used to be something people would say with pride, but has now taken on a meaning of poor-quality, and now few people proudly proclaim “I’m an amateur.”

    But I think you’re missing a few key points:

    1. People who do the most interesting work are often people with the most curiosity — curiosity and pursing a variety of interests goes hand-in-hand with doing something different. I’d argue the opposite – not that ‘hobbies’ are antithetical to doing something worthwhile, but that they’re usually essential to doing something worthwhile. Those who make a difference usually combine interests in new and different ways that other people aren’t doing. Sure, focus your energies on a primary passion, but not to the exclusion of pursing multiple curiosities at the same time.

    2. To get to spend the majority of your time on what you’re most passionate about often means that you have to figure out how to make a living at doing that. And while it’s great to be able to make a living at what you’re passionate about (I’m passionate about what I do), that often means you’re faced with a conflict between doing things the way you feel best, and doing things the way whoever’s paying for it wants. This is why professional writers, photographers, designers, etc so often say that their best work is the personal projects they do on the side, where they have the most freedom to pursue their passion. ‘Personal projects’ being the in-vogue synonym to ‘Hobbies’

  4. HobbyGal
    HobbyGal says:

    Judgmental and boring one track people who put down others for having enriching lives filled with hobbies are the true losers.

    • terri
      terri says:

      I don’t see dating, online or otherwise, as a hobby. So no, not contradictory at all. In fact those who DO see dating as a hobby are likely to come away disappointed.

  5. Mike
    Mike says:

    What a stupendously dumb post.

    Hobbies are a sign of civilization. They give people a way to use talents that they may not be able to use in their daily work.

    To follow you shoddy “argument”, we’d have to say that Churchill should have stayed out of politics so he could paint; that Hemingway should have quite writing to become a fisherman; that Roosevelt really should have become a game warden instead of President. Oh, and Ben Franklin should have stuck to chess, and Bill Gates should have ditched computers and Warren Buffet abandoned investing so they could play their hobby—bridge.

    You win the prize for the dumbest and most ignorant post I’ve read all year. Between all your poetry and improv classes, why not try a course in basic logic?

    • terri
      terri says:

      Wow. You seem very fired up. Seems you didn’t really get what I was saying. of COURSE there are other things you do besides your work. I’m not saying no one should do anything but work. But those who live lives of quiet desperation, expending in hobbies what they are afraid to pursue for real, that’s an issue–just maybe, not yours. There’s lots of dumb stuff on the web–seems one of your hobbies is going around commenting on it. I imagine it takes up quite a bit of time.

  6. Nathan
    Nathan says:

    Your logic is so bad that you’ve just invalidated your entire argument in your last two sentences of the above response. Why even have a comments section?

  7. Freddy MGTOW
    Freddy MGTOW says:

    In this age of anti-bullying campaigns, why do you call people with hobbies LOSERS? You must be a feminist because they are all about labelling and name-calling.

    • terri
      terri says:

      It’s so funny how this post gets people SO riled up. Everyone hates it. And anything that polarizing I have to keep up. (FYI, it was meant to be provocative, and to help get those who are marginalizing their real passions think bigger. But you missed that b/c you were so busy being mad, and labeling me.)


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