Everyone has a hobby or two, or three, or… you get the picture. I have too many, and I’m always looking for more. It’s sort of like an episode of “Short Attention Span Theater” when it comes to hobbies for me. Maybe I’m just a living example of Doug the Talking Dog from the movie Up. There I am, enjoying some fun activity, and then suddenly… squirrel! A new pastime catches my fancy.
I’ve been into some really interesting hobbies, some that stuck, some that didn’t. Fly fishing is still a blast for me, but the side trip into rod making didn’t take (though it did yield a killer 5 weght graphite stick with a medium-slow action that I just love). Tying my own flies lasted longer, but after awhile it lost my interest, too. Playing guitar remains high on my list, but to be really good you have to
practice daily, and time is a problem these days. The committment level has to be there, too, and once you get to a certain order of competency you have to work that much harder to bump it up again, which certainly affected me with my trombone many years ago. Gardening is another hobby I’m really enjoying; maybe since it’s seasonal I won’t get burned out so soon? I have dabbled in building tube amps for guitar, finishing cabinets, even some light computer programming, but after awhile all of these became more and more like work, so I moved on.
What is it about all of these things that is in common? Is it that they are all activities that you do with your hands? Maybe I like them because it’s a chance to shut the brain off for a bit, at least partially. Or maybe it’s because there is some element of creativity invoved with each, or artistry. Certainly that is a key with any of the musical activities I am involved with. I think Huey Lewis once said even rock and roll is art, but with a small “a” (I paraphrased!). Making music is especially enjoyable to me. It’s transient, and once you stop playing it is gone, unless you record it (hmmm… I sense a new hobby coming here!). Every time I sit down with a guitar, or a horn, or a keyboard there is an opportunity to make something entirely new, or to just repeat what was done before. Even writing has that creative element, and like any other hobby becomes more rewarding as you practice that craft.
There is another factor here, though, that I don’t always think of. Maybe what I really enjoy about finding new hobbies is the learning process. Could that be what really feeds the creative mojo: is the learning the real exercise I should be enjoying? I sure hope so. I recognize in most of my hobbies the learning phase, where you figure out how to do the activity or pastime. In fly fishing, I had to learn how to make a graceful cast in order to be able to fish effectively. I had to do some reading, there was some practice time, there was a period of experimentation while I figured out what worked and what didn’t, and after awhile my fly cast was able to gently loop forty to sixty feet of line smoothly through the air and land on the water without making horrible splashes. Learning a musical instrument is a similar process. Either through personal instruction with a teacher, reading an instructional book, or watching a video you learn first how to hold the instrument, how to manipulate it in order to get sound from it, and how to make changes to get different sounds, hopefully in a way that is smooth and flowing; ie. musical. The trouble for me is that I want to be good, but I’m not dedicated enough to go from “competent” to “master”, that elusive level of competency that takes place somewhere between a thousand and ten thousand hours. Yes, somewhere along the way I start to lose interest, yell “squirrel”, and find something that moves me on to the next big thing, whatever that is. You can bet, though, that whatever that thing is, it will require some investigation, learning, discovery, and practice. Maybe that’s the real benefit to all these aimless hobbies: the sharpening of the mind. I sure hope so. Now all I have to do is find some hobby that doesn’t cost so darn much!