My girlfriend and I recently had a discussion about hobbies. With both of us having full-time jobs and hoping to spend some of our nonworking time together, having hobbies can be tough. But I also think it's important to make time for desired pursuits.
A part of our discussion included the difference between simple interests and hobbies. She spends a lot of her extra time working on her new house and taking care of her golden retriever. She's also helping plan two weddings and, occasionally, works a part-time job at a local store. "I would love to have hobbies," she said. "But where would I find the time?"
A great article called "The Power of Exactly One Serious Hobby" from Medium contributor Elliott Hauser defines a hobby as "a specific activity, other than your primary pursuit, that allows you to develop mastery." For example, casual reading is not a hobby, but the act of reading to become an expert in the history of German existentialist thought would be.
It's all about purpose, in other words. Becoming serious about a hobby, actually prioritizing time and developing expertise can be daunting. But as Hauser suggests, serious hobbies should have an "almost professional feel to them," even if you're not getting paid to do it.
When you think about it like that—how seriously you would take a pursuit if you were getting paid—our simple hobbies can turn much more serious. The key, Hauser suggests, is depth.
This week, I want to learn about your hobbies. Do you have serious hobbies? Lifelong casual pursuits? What would you define as your serious hobby?
I'll share a few of my hobbies (mainly casual) that, with a little tweaking of my schedule and motivation, could become a serious hobby. We can all dream, right?
I've played guitar since I was 15 years old, performed on many occasions (much to the dismay of my audience) and enjoy the hobby. I only own a single guitar (guitar collecting is an entirely different hobby), but my beloved Martin SWDGT has served me well for almost 10 years. A casual hobby of mine has always been songwriting. I like the way chords and notes can come together with lyrics to form something special. Currently, my guitar playing and songwriting are more whimsical and scattershot than I'd like. If I were to turn it into a serious hobby, I might seek to release an album or master some of my favorite songs by respected artists. I have the utmost respect for songwriters like Ryan Oyer, who successfully completed a new song every day in February. What are your secrets, sir?
Reading about writing a book
I tried to complete National Novel Writing Month in November and failed after about 10 days. The program encourages you to write the first draft (50,000 words) of a novel/writing project in a month's time. Even though I had an outline, I found the work to be tedious and unenjoyable—especially when I write all day for a living, anyway. Instead, I focused my hobby away from writing and onto reading books about writing. Books such as "The Story Grid" are somewhat technical—the latter pages deconstruct "The Silence of the Lambs" scene by scene—but there's something incredibly satisfying about reading about writing. Now, if I could only put pen to paper after a full day of writing at work.
For the past two years, I've seriously pursued the study of improvisational comedy and performance. It started in a friend's basement. We slowly worked through a good portion of "The Comedy Improvisation Manual" by the Upright Citizens Brigade, and some of us from that group perform with Improv Chattanooga at venues such as The Comedy Catch, Barking Legs Theater and Granfalloon. Casual observers might say, "That looks easy," but there is actually a ton of practice hours, intensive classes and deconstruction of scenes that go into the final product. In a lot of ways, improv has been my most serious hobby—the one that I take more than just casual time to pursue—over the past few years. But I'd like to think of it more as a cathartic excuse to be silly rather than a serious pursuit. With improv, the moment I start taking it seriously is the moment it stops being fun. Isn't that the rub?
God, this list makes me sound like a complete nerd. My foray into pipe tobacco began while I was working at Burns Tobacconist in 2012–13. The job didn't require an expertise on tobacco, but I thought since I was surrounded by it every day that I could at least learn something while getting a paycheck. Cigars were great, although I found myself drawn more to pipe smoking by the end of my job. Maybe it harkens back to the nostalgia of the Norman Rockwell grandfather image, but my interest evolved into a serious hobby of collecting and discovering pipe tobacco that hasn't stopped. Now, five years later, I have an entire bookshelf devoted to my collection. Many of the blends that I've purchased are for the future years of aging. I could talk about the process and my collection for hours. I won't. But I could!
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.