Why A Hobby Will Do You More Good Than A Side Hustle
Our careers often define us, but in recent weeks, many of us have been forced to reevaluate this notion. Since lockdown, I, for example, a writer by trade, have been mostly horizontal and eating my own weight in brownies. My job has never felt more secondary.
Not to mention the fact that working from home really does sometimes mean hardly working. And when you compare your new schedule to what's going on outside your bubble, it can also feel silly. While I see merit in my work as a writer, the importance of my filing copy pales in comparison to the sacrifices being made by thousands of key workers. As the lockdown continues, many of us privileged enough to have time to waste have begun pondering what children’s author and illustrator Mr Dallas Clayton recently summarised in a prescient Instagram post: “What if my job was never meant to define me?”
The coronavirus pandemic has encouraged many of us to take up pastimes such as art, baking, dance and poetry, things we would not describe as “real” work. The intrinsic value of hobbies has now come to the fore, and it is not monetary. I read law at university, rather than fine art or English literature, because of the deeply ingrained idea that I should be doing something “worthwhile”. Now, like many other people, I am spending this period engaging with what had until recently become a dirty word – the humble, unmonetisable hobby.
My social media, usually filled with work-related announcements, is brimming with people baking lopsided carrot cakes, trying their hand at gardening and doing viral dance challenges. These creators are sharing their works and progress with pride, on newly launched platforms such as Sitting Rooms Of Culture, a digital hub for #coronart. I’ve seen defunct fashion blogs resurrected by bored bloggers who had left them for the more lucrative pastures of Instagram sponsored posts. It seems our value system has had no choice but to adapt and the worthiness of an act is newly measured in how it makes you feel. “Hobbies can really help you learn how to slow down, relax, engage and just live in the moment,” says Ms Jemma Moore, creator of the HobbyCast podcast, which aims to “explore the wonderful world of hobbies”. “They nourish your self-esteem and build up your confidence.”
“Hobbies can really help you learn how to slow down, relax, engage and just live in the moment”
The beneficial effects of creativity on mental health are well documented. Art, drama, music and dance are all commonly used as therapeutic aids. For Mr Stuart Semple, an ambassador for mental health charity Mind and contemporary artist, art was a “lifeline” when he was struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. “I think at this time, art and creativity are more important than ever,” he says. “There are a lot of big emotions flying around and much to make sense of. Art can help us navigate that. I’d urge anyone on lockdown to start to connect with whatever creative passion they might have put on pause and use this time to delve into that activity.”
There are many upsides to creating, crafting and making outside the realm of mental health. The satisfaction of baking your own bread is priceless, but also handy when shopping is a high-stress activity. Crafty hobbies, including crocheting, sewing, tie-dyeing and knitting, allow you to upcycle your stay-at-home wardrobe via low-stakes fashion experiments.
But the best thing about hobbies is that you simply don’t have to be good at them. Not even a tiny bit. There is no negative note on a performance review for a slightly wonky clay bust, no docking of wages if your sourdough is too sour. The twin rewards of your labours are self-satisfaction and something to do during a deeply difficult period. “What I hear the most on the podcast is the sense of fulfilment and pure childlike joy people feel as they progress,” says Ms Moore. “They really take pride in what they achieve, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as they planned. But, as the saying goes, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”
How to get the most out of your hobby
Don’t wait for the perfect time to start
Despite lockdown feeling endless, there is no time like the present to get started on your chosen hobby. When I first decided to try sculpting, I couldn’t get a hold of the professional tools because Amazon was prioritising the delivery of essential items, so I made do with knives and screwdrivers (although be careful). Be willing to get creative with what you use to get creative.
Don’t expect perfection
It’s OK to start small. Perhaps challenge yourself to stay in the lines of an adult colouring book before attempting to recreate the Sistine Chapel on the living room ceiling. You don’t have to be a professional to produce something worthwhile. Art is particularly forgiving of flaws. If you’re creating something such as a plant pot, it often doesn’t require fine detail and a rustic, even rudimentary, look will become part of its aesthetic. Plus, you have plenty of time to improve during quarantine.
Join a group
From Facebook groups to forums, hobbying alongside others helps in terms of accountability, keeping you on track and sourcing tips. The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) initiative has temporarily rebranded as StayHomeWriMo, so budding novelists can encourage each other as they write their books. And don’t shy away from putting the social in social distancing. There are several ways to create together, whether it’s co-writing bedtime stories with the kids or learning an instrument with a friend over FaceTime.
Some people are more affected by the current climate than others, but it goes without saying that everyone is affected. Art, drama, music and dance often help communicate and process thoughts and feelings where words fail. They also serve as effective ways to be in the moment and separate yourself from anxieties caused by circumstances beyond your control, a form of escapism that beats Netflix any day.
Illustration by Mr Pete Gamlen