The Professional Hobbyist

My first post under a new category called ‘Musings’. There are myriad thoughts that arise intermittently and lead me to speculate about alternate viewpoints.I am starting this category, just to hear your thoughts on some of these subjects. The intention is not to arrive at specific conclusions nor to enforce any preconceived ideas or opinions,but to just exchange free flowing thoughts.

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‘Hobby’ by definition implies an activity done during one’s leisure time for pleasure. For anyone who’s very passionate about their hobbies, the definition itself could border on the insipid. But nevertheless, the underlying intent doesn’t vary – that it is done during one’s leisure time , suggesting one has an absolute choice in deciding when and whether to pursue. I think therein lies the crux – hobby is something that’s freewheeling, rather than getting straight-jacketed into specific schedules and timelines.

As more and more people transition their hobbies or interests into full fledged businesses, the question that often crops upΒ  in my mind, is whether the essence of a hobby still holds good. One very important constituent of a hobby, is that one has a choice to pursue it when one wants and the moment when one changes this very intrinsic nature, does it cease to offer the same enjoyment and the sense of carefree liberation , it otherwise would have afforded. Business, of course, implies a monetary compensation imposing a very rigid outline on how the hobby progresses but at times, this carefree aspect is robbed, the moment one is under a compulsion of any sort.

Blogging networks and the blogging world throws up several interesting gauntlets.One such blogging mantra suggests one to keep updating one’s blog every week. This, to my mind immediately becomes a compulsion. Can one be a serious blogger and still consider blogging a hobby ? Plausibly, that’s when a hobby meta-morphs into a more serious pursuit and one strives to excel at it rather than it merely serving to add a relaxing distraction in life.

It can be argued whether a hobby which doesn’t result in any discernible output, is less amenable to the pressures of achieving perfection – wherein the focus is more on the ‘doing’ rather than the creation itself. For instance, reading would have definitely qualified to be one such pursuit, where one could have retreated to a private world away from the constant pressures of proving oneself. I would have presumed bird watching as well, to be a personal pursuit with out undue pressure,but now I know better.We are ‘facebooked’ and the more we ‘do’ something, the more we promote it. The minute we have an audience,there is always a need to showcase and everyday desires are not far behind.

Would you still continue a hobby if there was no audience ? Nobody to appreciate what you did. Some of course, are more audience driven than others eg. blogging. But there are others, which could obviate the need to showcase and hence could be more pursuant to an unadulterated relaxation.

If you have converted a hobby into a profession, do you still derive the same amount of joy and relaxation vis a vis when it was not ? Do share your thoughts !

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27 thoughts on “The Professional Hobbyist

  1. Depends on the activity I suppose. For me, writing has never been a hobby. I started writing by accident, and now I do it professionally. Do I derive the same interest from writing? Yes. I reckon the challenge with moving a hobby into a profession is about the ‘viability’ of the hobby. I mean, if my hobby was stamp collecting, I’m not sure how much of a profession I could build from it. Coming to blogging, I guess it’s all down to interaction. Without a bit of ‘you scratch my comment section and I’ll scratch yours’, it’s going to be difficult to get going. Unless you’re a well established and sought after writer or celebrity perhaps. But that’s what gets people in. After that, it’s always good writing that more people come for. The other issue when bloggers start writing with a view to becoming an author – yours truly included – then it moves beyond hobby and into either a mainstream profession or an alternate one. There’s no harm in that. But the problem is that when blogger-turned-writers start writing books that read like blogs. πŸ™‚
    Of course, I’m digressing now.
    Coming back to your question, for certain hobbies that don’t demand an audience, I suppose the ‘essence of the hobby’ doesn’t deteriorate, because you’re not really expecting anyone to come and give you a pat on the back. For hobbies like writing (well, if you put your writing on a public platform, I’m not sure it’s any longer a hobby. Just my thought), it doesn’t work that way.

    Sorry! I seem to have eaten up your entire comment section. ‘Verbal diarrhoea’ you see πŸ˜›

    Good to see some ‘action’ on your blog, Asha. You’ve been missed.

    1. Interesting point about the ‘viability’ there. But I am sure you wouldn’t have considered writing because it was viable…it just so happened that it was viable and the rest is history πŸ™‚
      Yes, the point you made about blogging actually not being a hobby is probably correct. In the sense, that it’s essentially writing for the public and by that very nature, it definitely has the ‘audience’ angle attached to it.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Sid ! I am glad about the ‘action’ too.. almost got into a writer’s block.. This is helping to dispel it πŸ™‚

  2. I have a problem with the definition of hobby as “something done at your leisure time for pleasure”, even thought that might be the dictionary definition. Alternately, the terms passionate and hobby should never been used in the same sentence.
    Here is the sequence with this it “grows” as I see it.
    Stage 1: Hobby (done at my leisure for pleasure – im probably pretty bad at it and no one cares about it… even i dont care if im good at it… i just do it for my pleasure, you see)
    Stage 2: Getting Serious (starting to get very serious, do it on a schedule or go out of the way to create time for it… still no one cares about it… Im starting to care, and I even start thinking im good)
    Stage 3: Getting noticed (im obsessed and im starting to be good… or even “pretty” good at it… others notice… some of them like it and some of them dont… Im driven to do it because I love it.. or because others love it)
    Stage 4: Profession (you may or may not like it, but at least one person in the world thinks you are good at it.. and that person is paying you to do it)
    Stage 5: Religion (you are obsessed with it… irrespective of whether you are good it, you are determined to do it… you dont care what others think about how good you are)

    So, by my definition, even when you are Stage 2, its no longer a hobby.

    Didnt plan on writing such a long response… but hey, if you can Muse, so can I πŸ™‚

    1. Loved your detailed analysis Raghu ! Yes, people who are very passionate about something, dont want to call it a ‘hobby’ anymore. Sounds rather flippant I guess. What would be interesting to see is, after Stage 2 through Stage 5, does one actually get the kind of unadulterated joy when one is at Stage 1 – when…

      1.you are not bound by ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ because that’s focusing on the result and not on the journey or the act of doing itself.
      2.when you don’t really need to please anybody

      Thanks for your comment !

  3. First, as a professional lazybones, unless I set a schedule for anything or get kicked into it by someone else, I would hardly do a thing. The only thing I do, which fits foursquare in THAt definition of a hobby, is reading. And THAT is thanks to a large collection of books at home, the acquisition of which I had to force myself to do. Believe me, playing music on my ipod is also something that I can endlessly procrastinate about and, thus, I end up actually listening to music only once every three days or so πŸ™‚

    As far as blogging goes, setting up this artificial limit of blogging once a week (AND, as you know, it used to be twice a week till Dec last year) is what makes me blog. The doing is a pleasure but the starting to do is because of that pressure πŸ™‚ Trekking and travel I get forced into by other people, who set the itinerary and call me in. Thanks to them I do indulge else I may have sat around on my fanny and bemoaned lost opportunities when it is too late.

    As far as artistic pursuits goes, if your hobby is merely as a consumer – reading, listening to music, enjoying a painting – you can do without an appreciative audience. I do not really need an encouraging crowd screaming “Attaboy, Suresh! We knew you could finish this book in a day” to enjoy reading a book πŸ™‚ BUT – if you become the producer of art, or a wannabe producer, THEN the audience factor does kick in.

    1. Haha ! That lazybones factor is definitely something that can happen to me as well πŸ™‚ But for creative pursuits like writing or painting etc, I wonder whether creativity can be switched on by an approaching deadline. I find it very very hard. I might force myself to write something, but I am never happy with the quality of such an endeavor.
      Pressures have never worked for me and churning out a substandard product is even more depressing.
      Yeah, your point of a producer of art by definition, being audience driven is true. In that context, looking at the lives of Van Gogh or Kafka is even more inspiring by the sheer intensity of their love for what they did, which even overshadowed the lack of an audience.

      1. Mine seems to work a shade differently πŸ™‚ Yes, there are times when the idea for a piece strikes and will push me to write it and, possibly, that is my best work (I doubt that everyone agrees on that cos, if I go by comments and pageviews, the hit rate of such pieces is as good or bad as the other sort). Other times, I push myself to do it and the very fact seems to set off a piece – maybe not as good but not substandard, I think. At ;least, I flatter myself that I have never, yet,turned out a piece that I would be ashamed to own up to πŸ™‚

  4. Apparently, this post has emanated from your brain, not the heart. Even though heart is a mere metaphor in such expressions, hobbies belong to this domain. Is the brain absent then in hobbies? Never! The converse is not true for profession though.

      1. I see you have asked a question and I am sorry to return to it after more than a month. It was presumptuous indeed on my part to have said that when all I had wanted to express that you have taken a hard look at obsessions and the unreality of it all once the passion fritters away. One of my acquaintances collects comics and has amassed over 6000 issues. When I chanced to speak with him after what must have been more than a decade I was shocked at the depth of his obsession. I wonder why would someone do that unless it were a hugely internal drive. Yet, somewhere over the tangent of time the urge to demonstrate might kick in. The question that raises its head then is what happens when you lose the urge, forced by worldly constraints? The answer, I believe, is to avoid the pitfall of hypocrisy. It is best not to pretend when the urge is gone and isn’t writing something where we have more pretenders than any other art? There are zillions of quality writers out there spread over centuries gone and present and do I still have the time to read the odd fool hell-bent on slapstick pieces week after week pilfering phrases from across the blogging world? One has to take a hard look at the whole thing sometime.

        I see I still haven’t apologized to you for the original comment. Excuse-moi?

      2. Uma, you have phrased it beautifully. Yes, the difference truly is between urge and idle pretense.And as you say, “professional” or not, there are still pretenders who feel obliged to adhere to rules and churn out pieces merely for adhering to some rule which guarantees more publicity. Thanks for taking out the time and replying to the question I had posed. And no, you don’t need to apologize my friend, when it was my own inability to understand what you had said in a succinct manner.

  5. Quite thought provoking.
    I started blogging in Dec last year as a means of enjoyment and also to learn and earn…and i have been doing all of it.

    I wouldn’t call it my hobby in the essence you’ve mentioned since i do it on purpose and want people to read as well (most of us want it, else we would vanish soon and might get frustrated and depressed too).

    There is a very thin line between what we love and what we end up doing and in today’s age, it is more of the latter.

    1. Thanks for commenting Alok ! That’s good to know that you have been able to enjoy,earn and learn at the same time. I guess, the lines of hobby have merged and it indeed, no longer has the same cut and dry definition which it once used to have. Probably because, alternate professions are some thing that people are exploring and the internet has opened newer ways as well to monetize the same.
      Probably for our parents generation, hobbies could only remain hobbies in the true sense of the word..

  6. What an interesting article /musing .. I feel that it’s a blessing to pursue your hobby as a career /business but the compulsion to create a piece within a deadline do seem a bit dreadful .Havng daid that , different hobbies need different atmosphere..
    For me reading and writing being my primary hobbies , solitude works fine. Yes, there are times when I wish for an audience but ultimately it all boils down to me ,my hobby and myself (period)

    1. Thanks for your comment Kokila ! Deadlines, for me, definitely take out the pleasure for me. And also that many things might need to be tailormade for your audience. For instance, take painting, If I have to do only commissioned works as dictated by somebody else, I am not sure how joyous that would be, as compared to painting what I want.

  7. alkagurha

    I enjoy painting, gardening and blogging. For the first two, I don’t need an audience or appreciation. Blogging however is about interaction with an audience unlike writing a diary. An appreciative audience helps. πŸ™‚

  8. I do follow your ‘Fresh from the Easel’. I read your reply on Sid’s blog. πŸ™‚

    I think when hobby becomes a profession, you do lose some charm. You are under pressure, you do things to please people, you are not completely yourself. Writing is my hobby, but when money comes into it, entire equation changes. To be truly termed as hobby, you must derive pleasure from it and there should be no strings attached.

  9. I agree with other commenters who feel that a hobby when turned into a profession would lose the charm and become more an activity than a pastime and a stressful one at that. Blogging began as a pastime but started becoming too consuming to be enjoyable, probably due to the nature of the medium. Sometimes stepping back to take stock helps put things in perspective. It has for me πŸ™‚ I do have a hobby (among several others) which is most enjoyable and which is limitless in its possibilities. I will look forward to your comment on it when I share it on my blog, perhaps today?

    1. Zephyr, thats great to hear that you have found the right balance to get the most out of your hobbies. Certain basic questions always helps and if the enjoyment of blogging is heavily dependent on other people’s appreciation, I feel it does take away the liberation to a certain extent. Will definitely check your post and comment soon.

  10. I was told by one of my mentors to relax and paint and enjoy the experience. If I paint to finish a painting, I will end up with nothing satisfactory to show. I can feel the heaviness in the work, as if it is suffocating under expectations. And yet, the freedom to be who we are comes from chucking that sense of “having to do it”. I can produce a painting that is technically hitting all the right notes but fail to inspire admiration. I would rather not paint if that is what art is all about.

    1. Thanks Sabiscuit for leaving your thoughts. That “having to do it” can indeed be a big dampener. If one can leave that thought behind and not let it affect the pursuit, then only can we be truly free and happy in the expression itself.

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