Are temporary hobbies worthwhile?


I have quite a curious mind. I love to learn new things, especially when it’s accessible enough that a few invested hours yields substantially more than a cursory glance. The more things I try, the more I become comfortable with not maintaining hobbies. I held a “common sense” definition of a hobby as something that defines your interests, knowledge and skills outside of what you do for work. It’s expected that when you have a hobby, you have likely maintained it for years if not decades. It is something you have a passion for, and possibly cannot live without. Whenever we encounter someone who has a hobby under that expected definition, we often consider them to be exceptionally interesting or creative, and look up to that commitment to a craft.

A Hobby Can Be Temporary

Merriam Webster’s definition of Hobby:

A pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.

Oxford definition of Hobby:

An activity that you do for pleasure when you are not working.

Whenever I discuss hobbies with others, I had an assumption of that being something static about the individual’s personality. They always DJ, or paint or play football. When people asked me about my hobbies, I always struggled and fell back on things I have been doing in my spare time for a long time, usually reading or movies or video games. Nothing in the definition of hobby dictates that it has to have a minimum duration though! Once I started to realise this, my view of myself changed. No longer was I just “interested” in learning how to play a guitar, or trying to design a keyboard. Now they became hobbies.

Enjoy Temporary Hobbies

Just like trying new foods, visiting new places and meeting new people (well, pre-‘rona) trying new hobbies is something that can be a hobby in itself. A hobby that collects hobbies. I think feelings of failure tie into this; abandoning a hobby may feel like laziness or inadequacy, however failing at a hobby may mean you’re just not passionate about it. Failing early, cheaply and before a substantial investment in time, money and lifestyle is a way to potentially bring you closer to something you’ll enjoy even more for a longer period of time.

The “Gathering Hobbies” Hobby

Gathering hobbies is an exercise in curiosity and an amazing way to broaden your view. Spending a bit of time with one thing, then moving onto the next will become faster and easier. Just like any skill, picking up new hobbies will become easier and faster the more you do it.

Why can’t I hold all these hobbies? I should try that juggling class happening next week…

Why can’t I hold all these hobbies? I should try that juggling class happening next week…

Below I’ve illustrated a web of hobbies and their domains, as well as how they interconnect. You can see how some of the hobbies are insular but most work with each other and strengthen each other. If you then decide to try something new, you can see how much of a background knowledge you already have developed from the previous forays in various hobbies. It’s all very exciting, and possibly endless.

Do the things external which fall upon thee distract thee? Give thyself time to learn something new and good, and cease to be whirled around. But then thou must also avoid being carried about the other way. For those too are triflers who have wearied themselves in life by their activity, and yet have no object to which to direct every movement, and, in a word, all their thoughts.

Marcus Aurelius Book 2, 7

Working Hobby

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Mark Twain

I’ve had conversations about this topic in the past. People turning their hobbies into work so they can do their hobby for work. But doing something for work has a completely different dynamic, it is what you rely on for income, security and life expenses. You usually deal with customers, and the product of your work is not something for yourself, it is for someone else. When a hobby becomes your source of income, it is no longer a hobby.

You can enjoy your work! Heck you can love your work so much you don’t have time to do anything else, and so have no time for hobbies. It is true you’re more likely to enjoy what you do for an income, if you were willing to do it for free anyway; putting the pressure of income on something you love can change the dynamics, you have to be open to that and aware of it.

I recently read as a joke, the fastest way to make money from photography, is to sell the camera. Bear in mind, a lot of hobby to work conversions require setting up your own business, competing with other talent in the field. That in itself can be exciting and engaging, maybe it is something that adds a bit of extra spice to what used to be your hobby. But now it is work, and work is competitive and requires dedication beyond what a hobby lightly demands. It’s no longer in the interest of your brain, but of your stomach too.

Jack of all trades, master of none.

Naturally, going about hobby to hobby will likely not bring expertise in any one domain. There’s the common saying: 10,000 hours make a master. That sounds awfully tedious. 100 hours will likely bring you to be better than 80% of the population at that task. 15 minutes every day for a year is almost 100 hours. That’s so achievable! You could dedicate one hour per day to 4 hobbies and maybe become better than average at them. Over a decade that could be 40 hobbies to try! So exciting!

All this is not to say that pure focused dedication to a craft is something bad, not at all! It’s just that my passion lies with learning new skills and exploring other hobbies. So far I’ve yet to find that one thing that makes me forget about the rest of the past and the potential of others in the future. Maybe one day I will find it, and eventually reach the rank of Master in a hobby. Until then, I’ll bounce around on these rocket propelled spring moon shoes I’ll make one day by following along a crazy DIY channel.

Just wait a few decades, then I’ll finally master kung-fu and kick ass.

Just wait a few decades, then I’ll finally master kung-fu and kick ass.

Hobby for the Das Sein

I’ve been re-visiting Heidegger’s philosophical topic of Das Sein - Being There or the Being. I’ll admit that its a complex puzzle I haven’t fully parsed yet, but I think I’m getting the general shape of his proposition. Existence is not separate from Being (us), before “I think therefore I am” there has to be an I. Before the I there has to be a something for the I to be in. All of it has to exist simultaneously and in unison, or the chain breaks and you can’t have an existence.

The other part of his philosophy were in depth topics of how to live. As usual, I’ll masterfully condense someone’s life work into a few rambling thoughts, so feel free to ruthlessly tear apart my limited understanding of what he meant. Here is what I gathered:

Our role as Das Sein is to live for ourselves, not as part of the inauthentic “they-self” or the drone swarms of collective consumer society. The first step in that is to realise you are not free, despite having the illusion of freedom. We are bound by existence to exist, which requires certain tasks such as sustenance, but beyond that we have no obligation towards anyone else to live for them. We must notice we are alive, and move towards our own authenticity.

I understand authenticity not to mean originality or uniqueness. I don’t see the laws of existence prohibiting more than one person from liking the same book, or creating the same style of painting. I understand authenticity to be something intrinsic to the Das Sein, and what separates in-authenticity from authenticity is the freedom of the Das Sein to choose what they do for themselves. Freedom to choose relies on knowing why you do what you do, not following trends and marketing because they say that is what you want. That doesn’t mean going mainstream is bad, it just means you have to know why you prefer the mainstream and collective trend of the day. You have to make it your choice to be authentic.

This gave me a bit of relief. I struggled with choosing hobbies; what will make me a more interesting individual to others? What sort of exercises can I do to be more attractive for others? Why do I want to buy that latest gadget? I have a choice in all this. It’s fine to want to look good, to buy that thing. Just do it for yourself, and of your own real free will. Be a Das Sein. Go try something new because you want to, not because you have to.

Ivan Written by:

Feel free to comment below, or sign up for a digest newsletter to stay up to date with more posts.

comments powered by Disqus