Hobbies get a bad rap, especially if one’s hobby happens to be writing.
Wait a minute, you might be thinking. Are you saying that I should think of my writing as just a hobby?
Not everyone will want to approach their writing this way, of course, but I am convinced that, for many people, writing can be an immensely satisfying hobby that can bring joy for decades.
Think about it: We can start writing without any special equipment. We learn the basic skills in childhood. We can continue to learn and to get better for our entire lives. We can pursue our hobby any place, any time, in nearly any circumstances.
For the serious hobby writer, professional status is not at all the point. And for many people who do get paid for at least some of their writing—yours truly included—writing doesn’t feel like a job. Psychologist Joyce E. A. Russell reminds us that hobbies are things we do because we want to rather than because we have to. She explains why hobbies are important:
“Research has shown that people who have hobbies are generally healthier, and have a lower risk of depression and dementia. Many executives that I have coached say a sport or physical fitness routine as a hobby keeps their blood pressure down, enables them to manage their anger and daily frustrations, and puts them in a much better frame of mind. Consequently, this impacts their quality of life, work and family time. Michael Brickey, author of ‘Defy Aging,’ says that an ideal hobby would be one that serves three purposes: a diversion (escape from daily life), a passion (engage in something you love) and a creation of a sense of purpose.” Read more
If the joy of writing eludes you—if you aren’t writing as much as you would like to, if goals fall by the wayside, if you no longer enjoy an activity that at one time brought you pleasure—try reframing your writing as an intense hobby rather than something you feel you should do. If your writing is a lifelong, serious hobby, there is less pressure to be perfect today or to fulfill imagined expectations, and more room to experiment and get better and discover your own voice. In time, serious hobby writing can develop into an occupation, but even if it doesn’t, we will not have spent our time in vain.
Hobbies are their own reward, and therein lies their power.
We invest ourselves, time, and resources into our hobbies on a regular basis not for outside approval or financial gain (even if it comes) but for what they give back to us. Hobbies can sustain us and give us a reason to look forward to the day when the rest of life falls flat. There is no “just” about it.