Labors of Love

Happy Labor Day weekend!

I hope you all are enjoying the quasi-official end of summer. For me, the approaching fall has got me thinking about how few of us have time for hobbies anymore. I think about this as my twins enter their freshmen year at high school and how crammed their schedules are with both school work as well as activities, most of which (given everyone’s focus on college and careers) cannot be mere hobbies anymore.

Sadly there doesn’t seem much time now for activities undertaken simply for pleasure. You don’t have to excel at a hobby – you don’t even have to be any good at it – you just have to enjoy It. But for my kids especially, there is a culture of excellence which means they should forgo what they’re not good at (even if they enjoy it) for sports or other activities they excel in. Sometimes, it seems like it’s all about getting into the competitive sports teams (recreational leagues being few and far between for my boys at least), or working towards varsity in your chosen activity such as marching band or debate. The focus is definitely on pursuing activities that will either look good on your college application or that might lead to scholarship or other opportunities. It’s really hard for them to find time just to enjoy something for fun!

Even for the adults around me, there’s very little time left in our busy schedules to undertake anything remotely resembling a hobby. Take gardening, for example…what was once an enjoyable hobby for my husband has now turned into a desperate scramble to keep things alive in the garden with the few minutes or hours that can be carved out over a weekend!

This fall, however, I’ve decided to buck the trend and indulge (that’s what it feels like sometimes – an indulgence) in not one but two hobbies…the first is my painting, which I love, and the second is knitting, which I’ve never succeeded at before. When it comes to my art, I’ve always felt guilty setting aside time to paint, especially as most of my life is taken up with writing (something, my husband considers a hobby anyway:)). There are always so many other chores or errands to run, that taking time to paint (especially when I’m clearly never going to make a career or money out of it) feels wantonly indulgent. Recently, however, I returned to art class and loved it so much I vowed that I had to allow myself time to  to paint. Painting unlocks a different creative process for me than writing – the only difficulty is, I still feel guilty doing it!

I decided to take up knitting for completely different reasons. When I was at school we had one compulsory craft unit in 7th grade, and I was so terrible (and I mean terrible…) at the knitting component, that the teacher had to get assurances from my parents that I would never do another craft lesson with her! As a result, I’ve been designated the ‘uncrafty’ one throughout my adult life – the one incapable of knitting or sewing, while my mother, mother-in-law, and sister proudly knit, sew clothes, embroider etc. A  few months ago I stumbled across a website ‘We are Knitters’ and decided I would finally throw off the yoke of ‘uncraftiness’ and try knitting. I’ll admit I had pretty unrealistic visions of sitting by the fire in the mountains knitting away…but I was determined to give it a try.  A month ago my mother-in-law was in town and she helped me get started – and, despite some fear-filled moments of dropped/wrong stitches, I’ve finally managed to get the hang of it. Now, I feel like knitting could actually be a real hobby of mine – if only I can find the time…I’m also totally fine with the fact that I might never be actually that good at it!

So, TKZers, what new hobbies have you tried this year? How do you find (and justify) the time? Do you find having a hobby helps or hinders your writing process?



29 thoughts on “Labors of Love

  1. How timely~!
    I seem to have managed how to keep some of my writing somewhat active in the times between things to do… granted, mostly in poetry and song lyrics, but I have managed some outlining and stumbling along on a WIP or two…
    But the two other things I enjoy have slipped by the wayside – practicing my guitar – which supplements the song lyrics, obviously – and sketching/watercolor painting – which has its roots in my pre-CAD architectural education.
    I recently had the opportunity to pick up the brushes again “for a reason” as I have painted small watercolor sketches around the hospital campus where I work for friends who are retiring or moving on to other opportunities, and having their friends and coworkers sign the mat, as a way of allowing us all to say bon voyage… and while I see the flaws, I also feel the release of doing something different that relaxes, despite the “blooms” and “drops,” and that oils the hinges on the other creative doors that sometimes get a bit creaky…
    Now, if I can just go all Dan Fogelberg and write, play, and paint the covers for, my own record albums… (but there I go again, showing my age…)

    • You remind me of another thing on my list of wanna-do’s. I’m not interested in song-writing per se, but I’ve always wanted to write a song dedicated to my dad–but being pretty much musically clueless, I don’t know quite how to start. But the project stays on my list until I can tackle it.

      • I find a similar creative release from painting – though record album covers would definitely be beyond me (as would song writing!) I love how both of you want to use your creativity as a gift to others. Lovely!

  2. Ah, for the days of yore when I could sit down with a friend for a leisurely, two-, or even three-hour game of chess. Well, at least now I have a chess app, which doesn’t complain if I have to put the game on hold.

  3. I distinctly remember in ninth grade deciding to stop doing art. Art as in paper, tape and scissors work. I remember thinking, this is a waste of time and paper, and I have no one to give the pieces to when I’m done. Sadly, I have not felt even the slightest urge to start again, maybe that truly was a hobby.

    To be honest, I have to admit that when I started I was no good at writing. It was a hobby. I realized it in the past few weeks, thinking back on my earlier stuff. Truly terrible. I just kept at it, and loved it, and learned from whoever would teach. So… you may have some luck with your painting and knitting. 🙂

    I’ve started school again this fall, and when I was signing up for classes, I made myself take a theater class. Acting was something that I always loved, but never, ever got a chance to do. During middle school and high school, the theater department was either nonexistent or supersecretive. My first turn through university, there was a stigma around everything; you had to have experience with the subject to sign up for it. But now I’m taking the introduction to theater class, so hopefully I will take Acting I next semester.

    Now the only thing left I’ve always wanted to do is take voice lessons. Costs money, though, and what will the teacher think of an adult taking lessons with her?

  4. Oh, you brought back some memories! One, on the subject of being dismal at sewing, is from my 8th grade home economics class. I hated the sewing unit. Our end-of-year project counted for about half of our grade. We had to make a real dress and model it in front of the class. (No boys back then…) My mom, who was a good seamstress, helped me pick the pattern and the material. When I finally stood before the class in all my swirly blue and white glory, the teacher said this, with a barely concealed frown: “Class, this is an example of how NOT to make a dress.” She went on to detail every single “wardrobe malfunction” she saw. I was humiliated. I never attempted to sew anything again and have always thought of myself as a craft dummy.


    Since I retired from full-time work this last March, I have rediscovered my love of cooking. So, in between working on my next books and trying to learn about marketing said books, I’ve been creating culinary art for my husband, our German shepherd, and me. And loving every moment. (And if I need to add something to my wardrobe, I go shopping…)

    • All I can say is that I hope these bad teachers experience karma. I think we all have a horrible teacher horror story in our lives–I know I was very adversely affected by one. Thankfully though, I can say the good teachers outweighed the bad.

      • I agree – how mean were those teachers?! (Though seriously I really did suck at knitting then!)….at least there’s always been some to outweigh that negativity. Good luck with cooking and if you ever want to try to sew a dress, I say go for it (serve that teacher right!)

  5. Clare, your post hits so close to home.

    In addition to writing, I want to build my skill at drawing (pencil, charcoal, colored pencil, pastel, etc & I’ve seen some nice progress in my skill in the last year), painting (have dabbled in acrylic but would like to learn watercolor and oil), making things with leather (dying to design a leather journal cover), make stuff with wood, and get good enough at bluegrass banjo to go play jam sessions for fun. (And other less priority things I’ll leave off the list).

    All of those things have one significant thing in common with writing–they take a considerable time investment to get good at. Sigh. It literally irritates me that I can’t do them all. LOL! Between work, chores, and the time investment required to stay healthy, that’s 75% of the day gone. So that doesn’t leave much time for breathing, much less interesting hobbies.

    Some things, like crafting leather projects or playing banjo, I’ve just had to set aside for now because I live in an apartment and both of those hobbies are noisy. Plus, I took 6 months of banjo lessons years ago and when I pulled my banjo out last summer I found I’d lost much of what I’d been taught. So I vowed I wouldn’t restart banjo again until I had regular opportunity to play.

    On top of all those things is volunteering with a couple organizations. Writing-wise, a fun project I’m working on right now for the historical society is researching the names listed on a couple of headstones. In one, I’m hoping to find out why the gentleman went by 2 names. Objective is to write a bio on each person. Love projects like that!

    As to new things tried this year: an acrylic pour (which I surprisingly loved, even though I do not appreciate abstract art) and gourd painting (don’t have much paint on it yet–still arguing with myself what I want the end result to be).

    I find any time I can slip into creative mode, no matter the medium, it helps my writing–ideas will pop into mind when I’m not consciously thinking about a story. Really the only negative impact of other hobbies on writing is the time it takes away from writing.

    I’m preparing some drawing ideas for InkTober (I want to draw some of my favorite country music artists, many of whom are gone now. Will not even close to finish them during InkTober, but I at least want to get a few started).

    I also plan to participate in Nanowrimo, but NOT with a huge 50k goal.

    But I will never be content doing just one thing and would never even try to force myself to do so. So I rotate around my hobbies as much as I can and pray that I win the lottery so I can give up the boring day job and have more creative time. 😎

    • It is a serious bummer that there’s never enough time in the day to do all the things we love!! Acrylic pour sounds awesome – I’m an abstract artist through and through so that is very appealing! I think we have a local art class for this on a Saturday so I’ll have to sign up…one day…

  6. I was going to be an artist. Ideas for paintings filled every thought, and every paper I got my hands on ended up with doodles and sketches in the corners. All through my high school years, I took the four-year Art Instruction Schools correspondence course. (My parents didn’t know I’d sent in the “Draw Me” challenge until a representative knocked on our front door to tell them I qualified for their courses.)

    Then I allowed the adults in my life to convince me I had to find a different career because I’d “never make any money” until after my death. So I did as they insisted.

    But I held onto my dream for years. I left behind huge murals on walls at my tech school and at the base where I was first assigned. Painting supplies nearly took over my tiny locker so I wouldn’t get gigged for an untidy barracks room. Friends received paintings for special occasions. Once I came home from the service, I had space to spread out my materials and start again.

    Then somewhere along the way, after a head injury, I lost the time and energy to create in color. I mourned that. And still do.

    Now the antique (huge and heavy) drafting table my father bought for me shares office space with my writing desk. I look at the dust it gathers and yearn to work with canvas and color. My office would be twice as large without its hulking presence, but I can’t convince myself to sell that table.

    I tell myself one day I’ll pick up a paintbrush again. But for now, I create with words.

  7. Clare, your post really brought out the passion in many of us.

    In answer to your questions: Incorporate your hobby into your writing, then enjoy the “research” you “must” do to prepare for your writing. The enjoyment will inspire and invigorate your writing.

    I made a turn in my writing about two years ago, from thrillers to middle-grade fantasy. I wanted to start writing for my grandchildren. I live in a 28 acre woods in rural Ohio. I love roaming and caring for the woods. I turned that into the enchanted forest and the setting for my new series. I have seven grandchildren. They became the Mad River Magic gang. They like to ride in “barrel carts” that I have made for them – often called train carts, 55 gallon oil drums that are turned on their side, a hole cut in the upside for a child to climb in and sit on a seat, a steering wheel in front of them, an axle and wheels below, and a hitch on front and back, so that the whole train of carts can be pulled behind a lawn mower or a tractor. I added “turbo-levitators” (in the book) so the carts can fly.

    So now, my strategy (in the three days off per week) is to write half a day, and “research” half a day.

    On the subject of knitting, my wife crochets. She makes “footies” (or slippers) out of heavy yarn, in school colors, favorite pro team colors, etc. that she gives to friends and family when they come to visit in the winter. They take off their shoes and put on their slippers. They love them, beg to take them home, and ask for new ones each year after they have worn holes in them. She doesn’t have to justify her hobby, family demands it.

    Good luck with the painting and the knitting, and the many hours of “research.”

    I’m off to attempt using an opaque projector to transfer and paint a unicorn face on the front of barrel cart #6.

  8. Oh, fellow painters! I started private art lessons when I was 12 (the same year I wrote my first book). I followed both passions until two of my careers wore out the cartilage in both thumbs and I could no longer hold a brush. I had replacement surgery which helped, but not enough to allow me to use my hands for work and to paint. At least typing didn’t stress the joints and I could continue writing.

    When I retired four years ago, I stepped up the writing and picked up my brushes again. I’d studied drawing, water color, pastels, and oils, preferring the later.

    When family found out I was painting again the requests poured in. My cousin commissioned a painting for her daughter’s wedding. having been down the road with commissions I’ve made I won’t do that again, but agreed since she gave me several photographs to chose from and would have the canvass framed at her local shop.

    She told me the painting sparked quite a bit of interest when she took it in. One woman asked her if someone famous had painted it, and asked to look at the painting several times. I felt encouraged that my knowledge hadn’t suffered too much with the huge gap between paintings.

    As for the other requests, I will paint what inspires me, not what others dictate. Done that and burned out before my hands did. If they want a painting, they can chose from those I’ve already finished.

    I do enjoy the luxury to alternate between writing and painting as much as my heart desires, with some leisure time for indulging in a few hours with a good book, making a new recipe for dinner, or spending time simply enjoying the incredible view of the Snake River canyon from our front porch. It really is a little piece of heaven.

  9. I have no other talent in the arts despite interests in many of them, I’ve always felt that the universe was shoving me at writing by limiting my skills elsewhere, but the closest thing I have to hobbies are intellectual pursuits. If I’m interested in something, I study it like a lunatic. In recent years, it’s been the paranormal, and, lately, contemporary online storytelling.

  10. Welcome to the knitting world! I taught myself out of a book when I was eleven, knitted madly for a few years, mostly with inappropriate yarn and color choices. Picked it back up when I was working at a stressful job, and it was remarkably soothing. (and there are studies that prove this) Now it helps me with my writing, because it takes just enough focus that it seems to free up the part of my brain that works on plot problems. I always have about four projects going at once: socks, because they’re portable, something simple for TV/Movie knitting, something more complicated for thinking, and something hideously complicated for the times when I Do Not Want To Think about anything.

    My efforts at drawing were so pitiful the thought of painting never even occurred! I’ll be sticking to word pictures. 🙂

    • Thanks Justine! I’m hoping knitting will become soothing – it takes a lot of concentration at the moment:) I’m doing a pretty simple blanket so fingers crossed I don’t muck it up too badly!

  11. You mean there are hobbies other than writing and reading!?

    I attempted art, but found that I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler. Though, lately, I’ve taken to playing around with letter printing- not so much calligraphy, but drawing letters- as well as making my handwriting better (and prettier).

    I did cross-stitch for a while when I was younger, and never finished anything. At the time, it was for old nanas– my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my grandfather, and my mother all did needlepoint and pettipoint stitching, and what ten-year-old wants to do that? However, since Mom’s getting older, I’ve had the urge to pick up a tradition of the women in our family- needlepoint. All of our Christmas stockings are hand-stitched and they are treasured in our family (you know you’ve made it into the family when you get a Christmas stocking). I’d hate to think this tradition will die off with my Mom’s generation.

    • I know – it’s pretty funny that I don’t consider reading and writing hobbies at all (they’re necessities!). I think part of my knitting crusade is to make sure I’ll be able to knit something for my grand kids like my mother and mother-in-law have knitted for my boys…family could end up with lots of blankets instead though:)

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