Picking up a hobby is difficult.
You have to be willing to suck.
You have to dig deep and admit that you know absolutely nothing about this potential new hobby, but you would like to know more. Not only would you like to know more, you’re willing to put in the hours, weeks, months, and years of suck in order to get an even halfway decent. This is generally easier when we’re children. When we’re children we suck at everything, so one bit of suckage amongst the pile isn’t going to really deter us from at least attempting it. It’s why children have such fun pretending, and trying this new thing and that new thing. Something eventually sticks and with persistent effort they become better and better and suck less and less.
This lack of fear in the face of failure is so important in creating things. But the more we progress through school, the older we get, the less we fail at things. That’s natural. We begin to fear failure because at first it reminds us we’re still children when we desperately want to prove we’re older, and stronger. It’s a sign that what we do should be taken seriously and that we have value beyond being the product of our parents. I don’t think we ever really think of it in those basic terms. I don’t think most people even conceptualize this at all.
But it is definitely coded into our society. Or at least in Western society. That’s unfortunately my only frame of reference and the one I grew up in, if anyone else happens to read this and would like to weigh in on how their culture weighs risk/reward and failure/success in the arts I would love to hear it.
Right, so, western society has this problem with failure. Failure is bad, wrong, no good, horrible, it’s the worst thing that can happen to a person. Success is the goal, the key to the castle. If you’re not a success you’re a failure. There is no middle ground. It’s okay when you’re a kid, up to a point, there’s an implicit understand that as a child you’re going to suck at things because you don’t know any better.
It’s generally why hobbies that persist past childhood and adolescence tend to stick around for a while. I’m not about to get into a larger discussion of how western society and capitalism play a role in trouncing any and all pursuits that don’t also confer monetary reward.[western society and capitalism play a role in trouncing any and all pursuits that don’t also confer monetary reward.] And that hobbies and artistic pursuits are graded on a scale where the effort to become proficient becomes less desirable the older you get as a result of being less unique. That’s a topic for another time and I might pin it so that I can come back to it later.
And let’s not forget that gender plays a serious role in any and all artistic pursuits. Cis white men are given more importance, more credence, and conferred more celebrity/expert status for their hobbies. Women and other minorities have to pass a never ending line of hurdles and gate keeping even if they are more proficient, are more of an expert, etc.
This is one of the many failings of patriarchy and while it isn’t coded as important as other tasks it’s an intrinsic part of western society, so much so that talking about it feels odd.
All of this comes back to the idea that at some point, once we pass our teens, there is less importance placed on Making, Creating. We internalize the fear of failure and the unspoken capitalist view that unless it’s commercially viable there is no value in it, so it becomes harder to pick up hobbies as we get older. And very hard to stick with them.
I have two main hobbies, writing and fibre arts.
Writing remains a hobby only because I have yet to find commercial success. I’m pursuing commercial avenues, and I’m writing original pieces and this blog for that end. But ultimately writing is still one of my hobbies. I’ve technically earned more monetarily from my fibre arts than I have from writing, in that I’ve actually sold product from dyeing fibre and yarn.
In the case of both writing and knitting there was a case of pursued interest. I was interested in writing enough through high school and college, and had enough feedback through roleplaying and cooperative writing sites to make a concerted effort in getting better. I was given the opportunity to suck. To continue to suck because I showed real interest in improving.
In the beginning, I had no idea I sucked. I thought I was writing brilliant prose. It’s the wonderful ignorance one has when they’re just beginning to write, they have no concept of tropes, clichés, retread plots, because a) they are calling upon movies and books they’ve read, but do not yet have the subtly to bury their reference points b) are still amazed by the ideas that are springing from their minds.
Let’s face it, there’s an awe in realizing that the words you’ve written are your own, they came from your brain.
This is heady stuff.
It is hopefully enough to carry us through that awful horrible middle territory where we recognize how much we actually suck, and how much more work to do.
But first, we need spaces to suck. And I mean Suck. Where we can write the purplest of prose, wax philosophic on green or blue orbs, write sentences that have no definable subject. Break every rule of grammar even as we relearn them. We need to be given this opportunity, because, without it, we never grow.
I think this is why I also picked up knitting and stuck with it. There was the awe in creating something by hand that didn’t previously exist. There was a significant period where I wasn’t aware of my lack of knowledge so that my joy was able to flourish while I gained more knowledge. There was an intrinsic challenge that kept my interest. I mean yeah there were boring parts. For the longest time I was so utterly sick of scarves that I avoided them for a long time after started knitting other things.
I put time, effort, and money into my craft, and expanded my knowledge base to include weaving, dyeing, and then spinning yarn. I’m on a wavering scale, knitting is at the higher end where I have the experience to try my hand at some damn complicated lace.
It’s important to have a hobby. It’s important to make things that didn’t exist before. I think it’s important to not decide on a hobby on whether that hobby will net you money. Not because monetary gain is inherently evil or some bullshit like that, but rather because your time is worth more than just money. I spent a lot of time trying to monetize either one of my hobbies and while I’ve decided that I wish to pursue a writing career — a career I’ve wanted in one way or another since high school but never had the courage to follow my convictions — the pursuit of that career is secondary to the pursuit of the hobby itself.
I love writing.
I love crafting sentences and picking just the right word to evoke the right emotion. I love when writing is easy, and even as I curse it, I love when writing is hard. And if you’ve found my site, you’ve probably been writing long enough to know that writing is hard. So damn hard.
It’s hard having disparate hobbies, or at least apparently disparate hobbies. We get stuck in this idea that we can only have one thing we can be good at, one thing we can excel at. And yes there is a certain amount of truth is taking the time to perfect something. But perfection isn’t the goal, persistence is. Pursue something because it is fun, because you receive joy from it. Hobbies can your spirits, and offers comfort in times when things are difficult.
If you want to learn something new, if you want to do find a new hobby. Do it. There are plenty of ways from the local library to youtube. Find a guild. Believe it or not you’d be surprised and how many things actually still have local groups and guilds.
The take away from this, at least I hope, is that creating is important. I’m going to finish this post with a quote from Ricky Gervais. I really like this quote. I snagged it from somewhere, feel free to share it, the message is important.