Hobby Immersion

Offlate I’ve had more time on my hands – in terms of fully being in my control of how I spend my time each day, than I have in recent memory. It’s probably been about 4-odd years since I felt this way. That has seen a return to some hobbies, and a return to a lot of things I wanted to be doing. I can’t say that this is what I’d like to be doing a couple of years from now, but what I can say is that it’s bringing me a lot of joy at the moment. A couple of things I’m doing way more than I’ve done in the past few years are: reading, playing the piano, and exercising. The only one of these I’ve actually done to a reasonable level at University has been reading, so the other two take a lot of effort to actually get around to and do. Each day I search for something new to inspire me to pick it up and actually do; instead of ideating it.

One of the consistent things I’ve found inspirational is knowledge. I really enjoy hearing people talk about the stuff they know about both classical music and exercising. I love reading about it too. This has also become something that’s true of my reading. I love reading more because there’s so much to read, but because I’m continuously motivated by the people who’ve read more – who write and share the stuff they’ve read. I’m inspired, to say the least. All of this has led to this realization that there’s an endless, boundless amount of any activity you could be doing.

That has me a little worried.

Specifically because one of the things I’ve observed about these individuals who talk/share their experience with any activity is that they’re all “qualified”, so to speak. People who write academically about books; or who review books professionally – they all seem to come from a position of authority/specialization because they’ve devoted their time to that craft. This is true of exercising and of music too – all those commentators who commentate on what music represents, and coach on how to run better, none of them are amateurs or hobbyists. What I found a little more worrying is the kind of nuanced specialisms there are. Let’s take books as an example: there are these people who write only about Science Fiction. But then it goes one level deeper: they write exclusively about African Science Fiction, or Chinese Science Fiction. That’s all they seem to read & comment on.

Last evening I was wondering whether hobbyists are demotivated from picking things up because of how endless hobbies seem; or owing to the kind of specialists there are in a field. Then I got around to thinking about whether I want to reach that kind of specialization: given that I enjoy listening/consuming media commentaries thrown to me by these specialists (irrespective of whether I agree/disagree with their outcomes).

For a while I lingered on my answer being yes: I’d like to exhibit some sort of preference, or niche, in every hobby I take up. I look at my consumption of the piano at the moment: I’m loving every moment of it, but I’m playing for an hour, reading music theory for a couple of hours, and listening/reading about classical music for a while each day. It’s extremely immersive – but it’s also super general; there’s no specialism there at all. For me to develop a preference for an era in classical music, for example – I’d have to first find an era I like, and then begin to consume that era’s music with a particular obsession. Being a specialist requires some form of obsession or the other. I could be wrong, but you need to be dedicated, you need to truly love the art form you’re calling yourself a specialist in.

For me: in a lot of ways, that felt, well, counterintuitive to what the idea of a hobby is. I don’t want to be too serious about it; I just want to enjoy it. I want to enjoy the generality, the gaining of knowledge and experience in the hobby. I’d like to remain at ease, without pressure of any kind in any of my hobbies. I’d like to be a generalist, I guess. Even in my reading, I don’t feel like I’d like to be walled within having preferences for genres. In exercising, I don’t want to restrict myself to a particular kind of activity.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to take my hobbies seriously. I still want to immerse myself in them as much as I can.

At the end of this very, very elaborate thinkpost, I have but one conclusion. This thinking was pointless. Like most things, figuring out how I want to enjoy something or what it brings me, or how I’d like to interact with it means I need to do – not think.

Analysis is sometimes useless.

I did, however, get a blog post out of it. It’s a brainfart of a blog post, but it is a blog post all the same.

Let me know what you think!

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