I cannot stress enough what I am about to say: have a hobby. Find something you enjoy doing for its own sake, something separate from your primary artistic pursuit. It can absolutely be something creative (and exploring new art forms is a great way to stimulate your creativity), but it doesn’t have to be. It also doesn’t have to be something you share the results of. Forget about Instagram, Pinterest or whatever medium you usually use to show off your handiwork, at least at first. At the very beginning, your hobby is only for you.
Here’s a practical reason for that: when you first get started, your work will probably not be very good. You can tell people about your new hobby (you might find some kindred spirits if you do) but the output of it doesn’t yet need to be public.
Generally, we do not do nearly enough for ourselves that isn’t also for social currency. Think for a moment about the last time that you found out that a friend or relative or coworker had a new hobby in person, rather than on social media. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Now, repeat the exercise, but about yourself this time. Did you find similar results?
Think of it this way: if you do something purely for yourself, it’s like a secret, and the best kind of secret: one that won’t hurt anyone. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Now, you can absolutely share your hobby and your handiwork when you are ready, but you shouldn’t feel any obligation to. Remember: having a hobby is about exploring your interests and trying new things, not about Internet traffic.
The reason that your hobby should be separate from your main artistic pursuit is very simple: it’s a chance to step away and do something else for a little while. Though it is very exciting, passion is also exhausting, and we all deserve a break. That may sound like I’m saying that your passions shouldn’t be a priority, but I’m really saying the opposite. Your passions are extremely important, but running yourself ragged in single-minded pursuit of them will burn you out. Taking a little time now and then to relax and have fun is never a bad thing.
Another advantage to having a hobby is that you can try out all kinds of things, with no pressure to commit to it, or even to like it. There’s no pressure at all, and that’s reason enough. Say, for example, that you want to try watercolor painting. You buy the paints and brushes and canvases, maybe you get a book or sign up for a class, and you give it an honest effort. Say you hate it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’ll repeat that, because it’s important.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving something an honest try and still not liking it.
Returning to the example, say that you do try watercolor painting and you hate it. Fair enough. Tear up the painting (which will feel awesome) and give the leftover materials to someone who’ll appreciate them (which will feel even better, and benefit someone else, so it’s a win-win). See? You learned something about yourself, tried something new, and encouraged another’s creativity all in one go. Isn’t that neat?
What if you try something and end up liking it? Boom, you have a new interest. Better still, there’s no limit to the number of interests that you can have, the combination of interests, or how much you have to know about something to enjoy it. Do you like Led Zeppelin, artisanal cheese, rock climbing or French new wave cinema? How about Biggie Smalls, Norse mythology, or pickling your own vegetables? What about Cannibal Corpse, crochet, cocoa with marshmallows or rooftop gardening? The possibilities are endless, and you should never let anyone dictate what you like but you. There will be elitists, wet blankets, and gatekeepers. Who cares what they think? People are allowed to like things.
Feel free to explore, because you never know what might engage you. “Variety is the spice of life” as the saying goes. Besides, do you want to end up being that person who is all about their work and nothing else? Personally, I don’t, and I don’t want you to be either. I’ve been stuck talking to people like that many, many times and it’s never fun. Be someone with interests and hobbies and a life outside of work. You’ll have more fun, you’ll be more interesting, and you’ll always have something to talk about (and if you’re an introvert like me, you’ll have something to do in your alone time).
Life is short, so have fun now and then.