From time to time, I read about someone inquiring about the guilt for indulging in creative hobbies that may have little immediate value other than the creator’s own personal enjoyment. A recent blog post over at Lisa Rivero’s titled The Unapologetic Hobbyist got me thinking about one of my more recent updated views towards hobbies.
This post is modified from a comment I just left, but it ties into Women’s History Month (a little bit anyway).
I didn’t have any hobbies as a child. Mostly reading and living in my imagination and trying to stay out of the way of my family.
After high school and all the way through college, I worked part time, and didn’t have time for hobbies, unless you count writing letters to friends. I had a few pen-pals. I had some friends I hung out with. Dated a little bit. Went dancing with my girl friends.
After college I worked full-time in microbiology and I took some grad-level classes, and I still didn’t have any hobbies. I worked, went out with coworkers after work. I didn’t have the time, nor really any knowledge or talent. Same thing after two more job changes – in forensics and medical genetics. Other than writing occasionally, my work really challenged me so all I wanted to do when I was off work was relax and spend time with friends and later, my husband.
After I came home to be with my daughters, that’s when I started creative hobbies. I taught myself to use a sewing machine and hand embroider. Turns out I had a knack for making creative things. I made handmade toys for a while and some blankets. I then turned to writing and then to photography. Then I just recently got started with art journaling. I have done a LOT of science experiments over the years with my girls using household items as much as possible (not just because I was a cheapskate, but because it was more of a creative challenge to recycle).
And of course, I’m still reading. Which has helped me in the area of raising my daughters.
I used to feel guilty about my hobbies, until over the years I realized it’s the creative effort that goes into my hobbies that energizes me, reduces my feelings of isolation and depression. It slows down an over-active mind and it’s meditative. I believe it’s actually crucial to our mental and physical health to have creative outlets. Not surprisingly, chronic, unrelieved stress can cause a host of medical problems. For me, this translates into an autoimmune disorder of the thyroid, called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which has genetic origins, but is triggered by stress (and for me, explains a lot).
That creativity spills over into other areas too. It helps us think outside of the box in other ways. It lubricates the brain and keeps us innovative, and brings together skill and knowledge from more than one area. Any time I do a sewing project, I need to use math skills to get my measurements right the first time.
It’s only social conditioning that makes us feel guilty. Human beings are creators. Those who are stifled in their desires to create are up for some serious stress.
My daughters take their own hobbies seriously because I do too. They share with me a love of reading and writing. They art journal too.
I like Nikola Tesla’s view of his mother. His mother was a traditional housewife. He spoke very highly of his mother, and credited his photographic memory and inventive genius to her. He wrote this about her (as written in Margaret Cheney’s Tesla: Man out of Time):
An inventor of the first order and would, I believe, have achieved great things had she not been so remote from modern life and its multifold opportunities. She invented and constructed all kinds of tools and devices and wove the finest designs from thread which was spun by her. She even planted the seeds, raised the plants, and separated the fibers herself. She worked indefatigably, from break of day till late at night, and most of the wearing apparel and furnishings of the home was the product of her hands.
So, these things, like sewing and knitting and gardening and what not, are now considered hobbies (because why make anything from hand now that anything you need can be purchased)…but once upon a time, these things were absolutely vital to survival.
I think if more people had creative hobbies and took their hobbies seriously, there would be a lot fewer unhappy, stressed-out people in the world.
As I read the troubles of the world I can’t help but think what would happen if they would only take If only people would make creative expression a priority, and not a frivolous waste of time…if people would “make art, not war”, how much better the world would be.