Falling off the hobby horse

Every few months, a bubble occurs at work. It tends to show up after a few days of downtime, when scratching together a few hours of billable time seems impossible. It comes on suddenly, with a flurry of meetings. My desk begins to pile up. My life turns up another gear. Everything is due tomorrow, and the end is nowhere in sight. It bleeds into my free time; free time that may already be stretched by prior engagements and home projects and an ever-growing pile of mind-numbing DVRed programs.

That’s the nature of the business. I grumble. But I also bask in the glow of vocation, knowing that someone depends on me for his or her words, plans and ideas. That I get paid to do something I enjoy, something I should stay quiet about lest they realize what they’re paying me to do.

But man, it sure wreaks havoc on my hobbies.

As words flow toward one end, the means to keep up with the hobby side of writing dries up; the paths diverted. What was once fun becomes work. A source of pride becomes an millstone, hanging from my neck. Taunting me with its demise.

Because with the important things claiming their share of my life’s time, my hobbies fall back a bit. I am afforded no more time to write on my own. And newer, shinier hobbies show up, too. I sometimes think my computer keyboard is jealous of our new camera. Of each new book. Of the Olympics and, in the past, the NBA Finals.

And from there, things deteriorate. Out of practice, or with my ideas used up elsewhere, it feels like something is stuck, like writer’s block has set in, or that my thoughts have been stuck in my head too long, are no longer timely or spontaneous or fresh. This leads to abandonment, of ditching a great outlet because of the convincing nature of busyness.

In this way, work can get in the way of our hobbies. And sometimes, that’s bound to happen. But without that outlet, what do we have?

So I think a little harder. I glance at the screen a few times, scanning the page for something I’ve forgotten. Then I start typing. For me. For my sanity.

And to remember that our hobbies are crucial. Make time for them. Take a few minutes and do something you truly enjoy, for yourself, for those you care about, anything that gives you the feeling of artistic merit or release, even if that release comes from creating a small city out of model trains or playing an artful game of Madden 2005 or writing or designing your own site or crocheting rabbit-shaped stuffed animals or decorating the house. Even at work. During break. That taking 15 minutes out of your work day to do something fun is more productive than stewing over your work.

Remember that, above all else, hobbies are for us to unwind. That they’ll always be there when you come back. That they don’t understand the meaning of time. Most importantly, remember that our hobbies may not give us the support we need to live comfortably, but they certainly make life a lot more enjoyable.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 14th, 2008