On Having Creative Hobbies

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This week I read through Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It was a quick read about creativity, and Kleon had some insightful thoughts. In particular the section on having hobbies got me thinking. Here’s what Kleon says:

“[Steven] Tomlinson suggests that if you love different things, you just keep spending time with them. “Let them talk to each other. Something will begin to happen”…It’s so important to have hobbies. A hobby 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. A hobby is something that gives but doesn’t take.” (71-72)

Without really realizing it, over the years I have pruned out the non-writing hobbies from my life. Partially this is the nature of growing up. My interests changed, and that is okay. However, I think this pruning was an attempt to narrow my focus and find time to write when so much of my time was consumed by work and school. I’m glad that I spent time building that foundation for my writing, but now that my schedule is a little less restrictive, I want to take Kleon’s advice and do “something creative that’s just for [me].”

The hobby that I’m returning to again is my photography.

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I had the perfect opportunity to take some photos when my parents called us up for an impromptu trip to Niagara Falls on Saturday evening. They were good sports as I paused for my long(ish) exposure shots, using the rock pillars as make-shift tripods.

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When I was in high school, I got into taking photos. I took some photography classes and was on the yearbook team. That was a fun, but incredibly competitive environment. We were all striving for photos that would get the top grades and the best spots in the yearbook. It’s been over five years since I’ve been in that environment, but that drive to be the best photographer stuck around.

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I think I experience a similar drive to be “the best” with my writing. That’s not a bad thing, as long as it’s not all-consuming (which is usually isn’t). It’s propelled me to work hard and look for learning opportunities. It motivates me to keep going, but it is tiring.

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When I started taking photos again over the last few weeks, I didn’t have any competition or the inherant need to be “the best”. There was nothing at stake. I took photos for the pure pleasure of creating art. That was refreshing. And I know that tomorrow morning when I sit down at my desk to write again, the words will come easier, because they have been primed by another creative endeavor.

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