Monday, January 09, 2012

Hobbies and The Hobbyist

When I was younger any sort of 'hobby' generally consisted of sitting quietly in a corner and drawing. I would draw people for hours on end, creating networks of invented families and communities on sheets of paper, their names and jobs and pets and likes and dislikes written next to them. That's pretty much all that I remember drawing when I was younger and sometimes I'd write stories about these characters too.

Unlike with many other hobbies there wasn't really an visible end point, I'd just keep on drawing and I think it's because of this that I really like the idea of conventional hobbies, the type that require input and then you can finish and stand back and admire before starting, if you wish, all over again. I'm interested in the sort of hobbies that people had at school, especially the ones that were fitted into a weekly schedule. My Mum tried to get me to 'do stuff' when I was little but a couple of failed gymnastics lessons, a muddy football match as a 5 year old and a sprinkling of non-plussed piano lessons never came to fruition. (I never practised the piano and preferred to spend the lessons talking to Ms Gowdy in her lovely big Clifton house with the big cream carpet that you had to take your shoes off before walking on.) I was never that bothered about extra-curricular activities and my Mum was never one to push so instead I returned to my drawing with a relieved sigh. I did join the Brownies when I was 7 and I remember enjoying that. I liked that to get badges I only had to do the things I enjoyed anyway, like writing short stories and baking and this all suited my preference for hobbies that were non competitive and you could just take your time with.

Hobbies aren't something I think an awful lot about now. But when I start talking to somebody who has a distinctive hobby, I always want to hear more. People with a passion are naturally attractive and when it's something that seems unusual or based on skill or maybe just something you haven't considered for a while it's always interesting to hear more. Often hobbies are only consciously considered in a boring context, plucked from the air in an obligatory way when writing a CV. 'Travelling, socialising, cooking...blah blah..' Pretty much everybody likes those things, myself included, but what about the hobbies that take a greater level of input and commitment? I commit to writing this blog and I have done for a long time but it's not necessarily a 'skill based' hobby. When I think of skill based hobbies, I think of crafty hobbies, like my Aunt who makes amazing quilts  or maybe something like 'Horse riding' or 'Fishing' because those were the kinds of hobbies we learned to say in French lessons, inferring they were the approved activities of pen pals.

Other peoples hobbies are inspiring, especially when they make you focus on your own, or the things you'd like to know more about. They also make you think about time management and how to make the most of your time to do the things you really want to do rather than just idling away hours on crap. And that's massively liberating, especially when it involves turning off the wi-fi and returning to 'the real world' to fully concentrate on something. I like the idea of calming hobbies like doing puzzles or hobbies that involve ticking things off a list. The brilliant DJ Derek has his own hobby, aside from reggae djing, that involves visiting all of the Wetherspoons pubs around the UK; odd but cool, he just hops on a bus and visits each one.

Opening Ceremony and Twin Bike teamed up to produce the Hobbyist series which documents the hobbies of well known creatives, and I really really love it. The chosen hobbies range from needlepoint to cars, showing that hobbies can be something requiring total concentration or none at all. Every time I watched one of these videos I loved it more than the last. Watching Lake Bell zooming around Hollywood in a shiny red 600-horsepower car to the Knightrider theme made me gasp "I want to be youuuu" and I can't even drive and have never, ever been interested in fast cars. On the other hand Max Osterweis of Suno has a more obscure hobby, a sport called 'Ride and Tie', a cross-country event that involves two team mates and one horse and is awesome in an equally alien way.

There is so much potential for variety in other peoples hobbies and the fact they're so personal makes them extra interesting. Hobbies tell you a lot about a person and also what they want to get out of their interests- switching off, creating or bettering their bodies and minds. I urge you to watch the Hobbyist videos-I'm posting all 5 parts of the series because they're all inspiring and also because they're hilarious in parts (I'm looking at you, Dean Spunt from No Age on your nerdy 80s scooter.)


Ally said...

This is a wonderful post! I really miss having proper hobbies, although am planning to amend that this year. I used to go to dance classes nearly everynight from when I was young until a few years ago, and it was so nice having time dedicated to one specific activity, so I am going to return to ballet next week after quite a few years off!

These clips are so good! I love watching people who have a hobby that seems authentic, a real passion and not just something they are doing to impress people.

And yes, time management - that old chestnut. I definitely agree disabling wi-fi now and then is essential in working towards a healthier more productive life. Now to put that into practice...

Sandra Gale said...

Just found your blog, I can really relate you your childhood hobbies of just drawing all the time and only liking the brownie badges that were all about stuff that I liked doing anyway. I think I'm on a perpetual mission to fill my life with hobbies that are non-demanding

Anonymous said...

this really fed into my procrastination addiction. thanks for being such an enabler xx