One of my favorite takeaways from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist is the idea of keeping active hobbies while we’re pursuing our creative endeavors.
“A hobby,” he says, “is something creative that’s just for you. You don’t try to make money or get famous off it—you just do it because it makes you happy.”
For many people, writing is a hobby. They sit down and write to decompress. For me (and many of you), writing is a way of life—not a “job,” necessarily, but definitely something we take seriously.
I don’t write to decompress. I write to create.
So I use hobbies to decompress. For me, that usually means grabbing a paintbrush or sketchbook or even a coloring book. When I need a break from writing, I turn to art. I still sit down at the piano almost every night and play for 15 to 20 minutes. I write songs, sometimes. These things—art and music—are mine. I do them because I enjoy them. They help keep me balanced.
You might knit, crochet, act, paint, garden, fish, exercise, sew, golf, cycle, hike, cook, swim, dance, play a sport, or volunteer.
Whatever your hobby, keep doing it.
If you’re not doing it as much as you’d like, change that.
I’m not going to go into the science (nerd alert!) of how our brains are subconsciously working through the creative tangles we’re facing when we’re not actively thinking about them. But remember when you solved that plot hole or character issue when you were washing your hair in the shower?
Hobbies are crucial to the creative process. In Kleon’s words: they “give” but they “don’t take.” To be most effective, we need to have a safe place to go when it’s time to step away from the work—something that’s just for us. No expectations. No pressure.
Because when we give our brains a rest, we’re better prepared to handle the blocks and stresses that come with the creative life.
Our art and our hobbies inform one another. I need music as much as I need to write, but for very different reasons.
So . . . when things get tough, go to the well. Fill up.
And if you don’t have a hobby?