First: I mentioned elsewhere that I was listening to something purely instrumental. I was — I’m listening to it now. And I have a link :).
It was composed by my oldest son.
A couple of people asked me if I have any hobbies.
If I had been asked this question thirty years ago, I could have said: writing. Writing is my hobby. In some fashion, it still is, but it’s also my job, and that changes the role a hobby has in one’s life.
The idea is: if you turn your hobby into your career you will then have a job into which you can pour your passion and love which would be win-win. But it’s a fundamental structural change in the role of that activity in your life.
What I had to struggle to do was to remember that I had come to this because I loved writing. I actually think love is the correct word, and it’s a messy word as well. Say you have children. You love them more than you love anyone, even their father. And there are still days all through their lives at various ages where you have to lock yourself in your room in order not to strangle them. Writing is kind of like that love.
So: sometimes when people tell me I want a job I can love the way you love writing, they’re missing all of the elements which would equate to cleaning bathrooms and doing the laundry and locking yourself in your room in order to preserve sanity and lives. They believe, truly believe, that love=joy. And if joy is not present 100% of the time, then… clearly, they were mistaken, they didn’t love this.
Hobby as a word implies – to me, so remember that all of this is coming from Michelle’s brain – activity.
There’s a desire to do something, to create something, to enjoy something. But… that’s not why I started writing. I didn’t consider it an act of creation as much as an act of compulsion or exorcism; my earliest writing was poetry. I didn’t start out as a great poet.
But I started out as a more consistent writer than many of the people my age, and oddly, this encouraged me to write more. Encouragement, who knew?
Reading was my hobby. I would, in high school, go to parties and then play the just-one-more-chapter-game. I was almost finished, right?
No one told me that I was bad at reading. Reading was academic, so reading was encouraged. No, let me amend that. Reading books. Playing video games was not, and D&D, which takes an enormous amount of creative organization, when done right, was not. Because games were for kids.
I think hobbies are things we undertake, sometimes out of curiosity – but if we’re young enough, and our first attempts are somehow not up to standard (ours or others), we often feel… embarrassed or incompetent. And we drop the things associated with that.
As we get older – or as I did – we turn a corner. Someone doesn’t like it? Fine. They don’t have to do it. In our attempt to fit – perhaps to find–a solid sense of “who we are” that somehow overlaps our sense of “who we’re suppose to be”, we sometimes lose things.
But we can find them again when we realize the things that we’ve put aside or hidden aren’t things that we should.
So: I wrote. I read. I played guitar (badly). I sang (mediocre). I wrote a couple of songs, even. But, I did give up the last three. Not because by this point they were frowned upon and I cared about this.
The second element: when is something you love ‘good enough’? How important is it that the thing that you want to do is seen and admired by other people?
For me, with writing, the answer was zero because unless I was getting marked for it, I showed my work to no one. So, was my early writing good? Absolutely not. I can’t read most of it now without trying to set the house on fire. But as I was, in some ways, doing it for myself, I didn’t need to care. It’s the component of writing for other people to read that adds all kinds of structural complications, but… I worked up to the point where I felt, finally, willing to take that risk.
I never did this with arts that were more performative. Maybe because, as a listener or viewer, I knew what moved me. I knew what worked. And…nothing I did ever reached that level, or close. It wasn’t, by this point, other people shutting me down: it was me. I did this myself.
And… I think this was probably stupid. I’d lost the sense of the things I had tentatively started not because other people were judging me, but because I was judging myself. On some level, I felt that if I weren’t Good Enough, it meant I didn’t have any talent. It meant I was bad.
With writing, it didn’t matter, because again: no audience. Except the occasional teacher. But I’m certain that — because I started writing stories when I was six years old — and honestly I was so upset because I couldn’t print … type. I felt, at six, that books were each created by hand and my handwriting was terrible. Terrible.
But the act of writing was separate, in my head, from the act of reading. So I could not – and still can’t – see my own written work as a reader can or will. I couldn’t judge it as terrible (believe that it was, unless you are an extremely fond mother and I’m your six year old). Whereas it was impossible not to do that with singing or playing.
I sing in the shower. There’s something about my reaction to song and singing – in particular, harmonies – that comes from some of the wellspring that writing comes from. For some reasons, when I hear a really good children’s choir, I often cry. Not weep — but some tears come from an excess of emotion; they’re the safety valve.
So: to me a hobby is a thing that brings you joy. Maybe later I’ll talk about the differences in the way I use ‘joy’ or ‘happiness’.
And my answer is: no, not really, beyond the obvious: reading, writing.
Edited: missing word