How to Keep Hobbies you Start (and let yourself have fun with them!)

A set of watercolor paints which came with the WLHS Art1 kit given out at the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

We have all wanted to be an expert at something. Maybe you found a love of intricate crochet or watched Olympic ice skating and decided that someday soon, it would be you with the gold medal. But once you realize that the level of perfection required for such a thing takes a lifetime, you probably gave it up.

I have a slight hand tremor, so neat lines have never been a skill of mine. Signing up for art was an accident, but it was one I didn’t bother going about fixing. It ended up being my favorite class.

Quarantine has tired me out, and more academic classes only add to that exhaustion. But during my second-period art class, I get some time to unwind. Often, our teacher gives us an assignment, shows us how to complete it, and turns off her microphone so we can work. At the end of class, she brings us back to the meet and says goodbye.

We get about 35 minutes of uninterrupted drawing where nobody talks and it’s wonderful. The best part is I’m still not that great at drawing, but I’m fine with that. My lines still may not be so neat, but with a combination of strategy, rulers, erasers, and a bit of extra time, the lines seem to almost straighten out on their own.

According to a study done in 2006 by the Journal of Neuron, novelty can activate “pleasure centers” in our brain. However, in such a distant unchanging world, we have to manufacture our own novelty. During quarantine, hobbies have been an easy way to fill the time.

A shading exercise done in the WLHS Art1 class

But it feels like there is a roadblock to actually sticking through to the end. We get excited to make or do something wonderful, but then we can’t seem to. Why? Paradoxically, the thing holding us back is ambition.

We all want skill and talent. If we are really good at something, we feel accomplished. Our lives are finite, so talent gives people something to remember. We want skill because we want purpose. But if we start bad at something, our minds decide that is the only way things can be.

If you can follow basic instructions, you can do or make something that’s passable. That gives you the experience to know how to do or make it better. Perfection is unattainable, so look for little things.

Learn to boil water before you set your sights on a Michelin three-star rating.

In a system where our jobs are more corporate and less creative, we can’t seem to find purpose in our work, so we look for it in our play. It’s understandable that when something doesn’t give us the purpose we crave we retreat, but purpose doesn’t have to come from skill.

My best advice for people starting new hobbies is to simply stick with it. Don’t buy expensive equipment, don’t make a masterpiece in your head that will take years to finish, just do something that feels fun. Instinct and full freedom will come after you learn the basic building blocks. Just keep going. If what you are doing makes you happy, quality can come second.