The dictionary definition of hobby is: “A pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” (Merriam-Webster)
The word hobby evokes an image of something you love to do, something you ache for when you’re sitting as your desk looking out at the window at a sunny day, something you never seem to have quite enough time for.
So why is it that some people call art a hobby, and some people don’t?
And do the ones who are doing art as a hobby have more freedom, relaxation and fun? While the rest of us “serious artists” only run into creative roadblocks once we step off the hobby train and put on the “artist” hat?
I began thinking about art as a hobby when I heard about Downtown Jam, a Toronto club made up of three studio rooms where amateur musicians can sign-up for a night of jamming.
No audience, no performance, simply playing for fun.
I asked Andrew Hall, the owner of Downtown Jam, the differences he sees between a “jammer” and a professional musician. He says a “jammer” doesn’t make his or her living from their music. They have another job, and come to Downtown Jam as a way to unwind and de-stress at the end of their workday.
So I started thinking some more about the difference between being an artist and having art as a hobby. First I wondered why someone would want to have art as a hobby, and I came up with three main reasons.
As I looked closer at each of these reasons, I found that each of them are the tip of a very big iceberg of emotional, mental and creative considerations in what was turning out to be a very complex topic!!
Art as a hobby means freedom from the creative constraints that might be involved once you claim it as a business, way of life or part of your identity.
Additionally, a hobby involves more personal choice and expression of the artist’s personal creative preferences.
This is as opposed to using creativity in a more commercial setting, to fulfill a commission as part of a job or in a therapeutic setting where clinical considerations come before personal creative fulfillment.
Darlene, a full-time artist, wrote in an email, “I now work in a full time job doing art, though it is not my style or passion, I still do enjoy it…..others think of me as a professional artist…..I just don’t feel that way at this time”.
Art as a hobby doesn’t just involve a sense of “freedom FROM”, it also involves a sense of “freedom TO”.
When it’s not something we feel we “have to” start, work on or complete, don’t we approach a creative project with more zest? When we’re involved in a hobby, isn’t it more about the “doing” than about the finishing?
The downside to this freedom is that there’s no pressure to perform, to get better, to challenge ourselves or to grow. And it becomes too easy to “hide our light under a bushel” and keep our creative gifts to ourselves instead of sharing them with the world.
Another down side of this approach to art is that hobbies are usually the first thing to go when we get busy.
And doesn’t freedom contradict what we know to be true about creativity? We’re not free to do it; we’re COMPELLED to do it. It’s not really a choice.
Like Elaine wrote in the Everyday Artist blog, ” Art is my life. It’s my identity, it’s the way I’m put together on the inside…… sooner or later I have to do something creative…..”
The very definition of hobby at the beginning of this article speaks of relaxation as the purpose.
While the process of pursuing our creative expression CAN be relaxing and peaceful when we’re in the creative flow, BEING an artist can be a source of stress. Roadblocks to creativity impact our mental, physical and emotional well-being, as well as our relationships with others.
A.V. writes that art isn’t something he DOES, to relax or for any other reason, it’s something he IS.
“It is not possible to have anything creative as a hobby. Even what may be considered as a passive activity like listening to music becomes meaningful only when you sink your whole being into it…For a properly integrated person there can be no hobbies; only other dimensions of the person.”
Art as a hobby calls for a sense of FUN and lack of “serious” or “hard” work.
But when we’re in it for fun, it implies that we don’t take ourselves seriously as artists. And this rubs some artists the wrong way.
As Steve writes, “…if I consider art as just a hobby, I feel I am doing myself an injustice and neglecting something that I love so much.”
This impacts your interactions and relationships with:
* The government, as there may be financial repercussions for not declaring your creative work
* Other artists, how you’re perceived by them and the support you can give and receive
* Your family and friends, and how respectful they are of your creative time
* The general public, your customers and prospective customers
And also, when we tell ourselves our art is just for fun, there’s no impetus to put in the time and effort to move past our current level of skill and achieve mastery.
This isn’t always true, of course. Andrew Hall tells me that his “jammers” sometimes set a goal of learning how to play all 500+ songs in the Downtown Jam songbook. And that definitely takes work! But he also says, “the typical ‘jammer’ does not or should not take her/his musical skills too seriously.”
Doug writes, “Keeping art as a hobby is not only good sense, it’s good for you. For years, even when I wasn’t sure of my “artistic connection” I continued to make collages and each time I would enter that creative “flow” know for sure that whether it’s a hobby, a calling, or a professional or all — art is not only necessary, it’s bliss in pure form.”
Andrew Hall discussed the rewards that his regular “jammers” enjoy. “This is a health club” and a much-needed outlet for releasing stress. The club provides a chance to meet wonderful people who are all there for the same reasons, and “you can count on having fun here”. Andrew strives (and succeeds) to make the club as welcoming and fun as possible.
In my own experience of using music as a hobby, I have to say that I had a FANTASTIC time at Downtown Jam.
I’m already blessed to be able to use my creativity in many forms in my work life – my music therapy calls on my musical, interpersonal, therapeutic and clinical skills, my freelance writing calls on my organizational, creative problem-solving, coaching, collaborative and writing skills, and my article writing and product creation for artists allows me to draw on and combine all of the above.
And just as other folks who seek out art as a fun and relaxing diversion, free of any external constraints, expectations or demands, I often long for a creative outlet that doesn’t have a product, performance or any specific outcome in mind, but that’s just fun for me in the moment.
And that’s what I found at Downtown Jam.
As long as I’m pursuing my work in a meaningful way and sharing my gifts with the world, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out a creative setting that’s JUST FOR ME.
So as long as I’m not hiding out in my hobby, then branching out to explore my creativity in a way that’s purely for freedom, relaxation and fun, is a wonderful way to recharge, refresh and reward myself for my creative work during the rest of the week.
If you see art as a hobby, or if you’re behaving as if it is, what could be different for you if you took it to the next level and claimed is as part of your identity or as a profession?
And if the serious business of your art-making is constantly fraught with roadblocks and stress, keeping you from enjoying your art in a passionate way, what could be different for you if you found a way to use your art (or maybe a related art form) as a hobby?
© Linda Dessau, 2006.
Linda Dessau, the Self-Care Coach, helps artists enhance their creativity by addressing their unique self-care issues. Feel like your creativity is blocked? Sign-up for your complimentary copy of the popular e-course, “Roadblocks to Creativity” by visiting http://www.genuinecoaching.com