Confessions of a Hobbyist


I’ve described myself as an overzealous hobbyist at times. I’m always tinkering with something new. Others might call me a “dabbler.”

Years ago, I started making tiny wooden guitars and selling them on etsy. They took hours to make and I didn’t think they were worth much so I sold them for $10 apiece. I was operating at a loss, looking back on it, when I would spend hours on a single item and only see a few bucks on it. But it was fun for me, and having people to make them for kept me occupied.

I should add that I didn’t quit because I stopped enjoying it. I could have built a pretty steady business if I’d kept going, probably. I got worried about copyright infringement. Never felt like looking into the legality of what I was doing pertaining to the body styles and images on some of the guitars, so I just stopped.

I play video games, and while I think they’ve contributed to a lot of the problems in my life, those problems would have probably appeared in other ways anyway. I used games to distract myself, and didn’t really enjoy them all the time. But I’ve found more recently, after taking a break from games, that occasionally it’s okay to just let yourself chill out and enjoy yourself.

I play guitar. I used to play for up to eight hours a day, but that tapered off as I became an adult and moved out on my own. I love thinking back to that time, though. Back then I’d just pick a song I liked or had heard recently and learn how to play it. Sometimes it would take days. I learned to play Classical Gas by Mason Williams in around a week. I’ve since forgotten how to play it to completion, but the intro and first portion of the song are still intact. Same thing for Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton.

I always wanted to learn to draw. So guess what? I started to learn how to draw. I also collected cards for a time. I read, as well, if you can consider that a hobby.

But because I have so many hobbies, I really needed to stop and think about why I do them. Am I just passing the time? Am I actually trying to learn a skill that’s going to help me in life in some way?

Basically, when I approach a hobby now, I have to consider, and be honest with myself: Will this enrich my life in some way?

I started to hate myself for wanting to learn to draw, because it takes so much time. It seems to take so long to create a single image, and I’m not doing anything but practicing. There doesn’t seem to be a great return on investment, especially since I don’t plan to start drawing for money.

Speaking of money, hobbies can cost a lot. Art supplies aren’t cheap if you want good products, and while guitar strings can be pretty cheap, the up-front cost of the guitar is usually a bar to entry for most people. Then if we want to consider video games a hobby, then most new games cost $60 a piece, and some require a subscription service to play online. It adds up. Even books aren’t cheap if you’re a fast reader and you like buying new.

And don’t even get me started on my friends who are into cars. Why, if I had that kind of money…

…Sorry, I was daydreaming. Where was I?

I decided I should focus on my strengths. And my strengths are music and writing.

Especially writing. Because, again, I don’t think I’m going to ever end up making money from my music. But I do think I could turn a profit with my writing one day. Besides, I just want to tell stories.

More recently, I’ve really gotten into running, and it’s been good for my body as well as my mind. Plus, it doesn’t really cost much if you don’t mind running on old sneakers. Most runners will tell you to replace your shoes every X miles but I haven’t ruled that out as a marketing scam to sell more shoes yet.

So, I don’t know if I’d call writing a hobby. But I think I should, because it sounds more responsible. At least until it becomes my job, and I shouldn’t even get hung up on that possibility.

As far as video games go, I’ve actually boxed them up and put them in a different room for the school year. I don’t know if I’ll be putting them back up or selling them yet. I will decide when the semester is over, probably.

This is all just to say that I’ve changed the way I spend my time, and it’s been a huge help. Sure, I’ll still spend a bit too long on YouTube, especially if I find a new series or YouTuber I like, but I also find it a lot easier to spend my time learning a new song or writing. Reading for pleasure has been difficult because I read a lot for school, though.

But if I need to kill an hour of time, I’ll just go for a run.


Photo by Dev Benjamin on Unsplash


About David Shank

David T. Shank is a writer, runner, and musician, in that order. His blog is hopefully an oasis among the vast ocean of negativity that is the Internet. He lives in Cleveland studying how to write good.

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