What often drives creative people to develop into professionals in their chosen field is turning a passion, that originally begins as a hobby, into their work. I’m using the word ‘professional’ in the sense of choosing to have the mindset required to earn your living from your creative work – that being serious commitment and dedication to your craft, having to work to a certain standard and having to take into account market forces in promoting and selling your work in endeavouring to earn a living from it. Stephen Pressfield talks about these qualities and requirements in his book, The War of Art ( a much worthy read if you’ve not come across it). A hobby on the other hand is defined as: an activity that someone does for pleasure when they are not working (Cambridge Dictionary) or: an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation (Wikipedia).
But once we turn our hobby into our vocation we may lose out on what having it as a hobby has given us, such as spontaneous play and experimentation, freedom to explore, with no self-assessment going on, no reviewing of one’s own abilities or standards, or consideration for the market. If we take painting, for example, blowing coloured ink runs on paper is great fun, worth doing for its own sake, and for enjoying the moment mindfully, but as a painter you will probably start thinking about how you can apply it in your professional work. Yes, undeniably, this may be useful, but then the purity of the fun has been high-jacked by thinking of the more professional application of the process.
So if you’re a painter or crafter, who’s turned your hobby into a profession, you might be better off choosing a new hobby that is totally different to your present vocation, which uses a completely different part of you in which you explore more about yourself, in order to achieve more balance within yourself. You could try a more physical group activity instead of a solo sedentary one, and where you’re collaborating with others as a team instead of working independently. By doing this you might well further develop those character qualities such as patience, consideration towards others, understanding, and give and take sociability that might be due for some exercise.
Writers might choose something physical, group orientated, but non-cerebral, to have a rest from the intensity and introspectiveness of writing. It isn’t enough for writers to use reading as a hobby. Why? Because if you’re a writer you will be always reviewing, analysing, and considering and critiquing the books you read from the mindset of a writer. Gone forever are the days when you simply enjoyed a good read, and the same applies to joining a book group too. Of course, the ‘writers reading writers’ approach can be a rich and exciting experience, but it doesn’t have the truly relaxing qualities of a hobby.
But what exactly are these qualities?
Psychologist, Jessica Beltran, describes these in her article ‘The Value of Hobbies’:
‘Hobbies are food for the soul. They nurture our spirit, restore our physical energy, and renew our mind […] Our hobbies say so much about who we are. When we pursue an activity just for its own sake we learn a lot about ourselves. Hobbies give us an insight into our likes and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses, our fears and beliefs.
And if, as creative people, we go for the balancing out by opposite qualities approach to our chosen hobby/s we have a better chance of finding these qualities within ourselves, of gaining fresh perspectives on life, ourselves and others, and giving ourselves a real break from the self evaluation that creative work demands of us.
Possible ones for artists and writers could be: joining a walking group, a biking group, a dance class, singing in a community choir – this is mine, I love turning up to my choir practice having done some writing, where my mind is forced from the insular introspection into group singing and fun. Of course stimuli and experiences from your hobby can feed your creative vocation, but I feel it’s important not to set out searching for this to happen, as having a hobby totally different to your vocation also helps to maintain your own boundaries around your work. It keeps it separate, defined and special. Yes, more spare time can be tough to find, especially perhaps with day jobs dominating alongside the creative work, but just a little nudge in a different direction once a week might pay dividends.
So what do you think? Something interestingly different for the new year? ;>)
( Lists to browse if you’re interested)
(Top image is ‘Sweet Industry’ by Lawrence Alma-Tadema 1836-1912, which I collected as a post card during a former hobby; the dancers pic is from pixabay)