Over the past few years, the need to capitalise on every aspect of our lives has seemingly taken over, and the simple act of having a hobby is steadily becoming extinct. In a world where anything from your morning make up routine to your secondary school doodles can be monetised and sold online, the urge to keep making money from everything we can is both a popular one and a dangerous one. We can sell our hairstyles, we can film our commutes, we can set up websites featuring only photos of our feet and earn a good solid living wage from it, on top of a full time job. The latest generations have been taught that time spent not working is time wasted, and so we’re taking less holidays, working later hours and picking up far fewer new hobbies than any other before us.
I’m a victim of this captilisation mindset. I started freelancing before I’d even left my full time job. I played around with some clay one day to make some cute Christmas tree decorations, and before long I’d started a new business selling ceramic earrings online. Whilst I was still at university I drew up some quotes to pin on my wall, and within a week I’d started promoting them as high quality downloadables from my Etsy store. We’re all told that money-making is our biggest possible success in this world, and so as children we’re told to act out working in customer service jobs, serving tea to our teddies and selling our old toys on the side of the road for pennies. We’re given piggy banks as presents, and pocket money in exchange for completing chores. Working is all we’ve ever known, so as we get older, it’s only natural that we want to continue our earnings with each second of free time we have, right?
Whilst there is an obvious advantage to having multiple streams of income and monetisable hobbies – yes, it is literally just having more money – there are a few downsides too. Working all available of the day is leading so many young people to hit burnout, feel stressed and anxious, and become isolated from the world around them. More and more of us are choosing to monetise pursuits from within our own homes, so crafting, singing, vlogging, developing and marketing…It’s convenient, and I suppose it feels a little bit less like work if we’re not actually going anywhere special to do it. However, it can make us lonely, overworked and even depressed from having so little free time left in the week.
With this in mind, I want to encourage my fellow entrepreneurs to find a little room in their schedule for a hobby that does the opposite. Find a hobby that makes you just a little bit poorer, rather than richer. Take up walking, and buy some good hiking boots and a map. Build yourself a reading nook and invest in hardback copies of your favourite novels. Start painting and order your first set of brushes and paints. Or even better, find yourself a hobby that costs you nothing but time. Meditate, do yoga at home, walk around the nearest park, volunteer at a charity shop or start teaching yourself how to sing.
But what’s the point of a hobby that doesn’t make you any money?
The minute you make your first pound from your hobby, it stops becoming one. It becomes an income, a responsibility, a job. It is no longer the relaxing and consequence-free activity you picked up to kill some time. Now it just works, and you have to find a new care-free hobby to pursue. Having the freedom to explore the things you enjoy, without worrying about their quality, customer-appeal and shipping process brings a whole new perspective to the activity. It can help you to relax, to burn off some stress and to experience things outside of your bank account and the four walls of your house. You can form a community, you can feel connected to people again, you can learn how to feel ok about making mistakes.
Your hobby is also something completely selfish for you. These days, being selfish is seen as a crime but perhaps sometimes it’s good to put yourself first. Not your clients or customers, or your colleagues. Just you. You choose it, you pay for it and you do it. You don’t need to worry what anyone else thinks of it, and you don’t even need to tell people about it if you don’t want to. All you need to worry about is whether or not you enjoy it, and finding the time to pursue it.
How do I ignore my venture-seeking instincts?
Whilst I can preach about switching off during your hobbies and enjoying a break from my money-making perspective, I’ve often fallen into the trap of simply taking up hobbies for other external gains. I’ll go to an art class and share photos of my work on Instagram. I’ll attend lectures on literature outside of my job, and spend the whole hour thinking about the many blog posts I could write about how inspiring learning and growing is outside of a work setting. Even when participating in activities such as running, social media platforms are still encouraging you to share your route with all of your friends, to show off about how successful your pastime is.
It’s not easy to turn off that capitalist voice inside your head. The one that tells you that every painting you do could be sold as a print on Etsy. The one that convinces you after one yoga class that you should set up your own yoga-based Youtube channel and upload your daily rituals. The one that bakes a single cake and starts planning the branding for your artisan bakery in the heart of the Cotswolds.
Firstly, be kind to yourself. There’s no point in denying that money isn’t useful or pretending that a few extra zeros in your bank account wouldn’t come in handy. You’re allowed to feel inspired and entrepreneurial sometimes, and it won’t benefit you to beat yourself up over your natural instincts during the middle of your allotted activity. If this is a problem that you find, then try carrying a notebook with you during your next activity break, and when these ideas start popping up write them down and then close the notebook and carry on. Let the ideas sit in the notebook and let your subconscious decide for your whether they’re worth pursuing or not. In the meantime, blast some loud music and just sink into the routine of your chosen hobby.
Alternatively, try to pick up activities in fields you’re unfamiliar with and that have few links to your actual field of work. For example, if you’re an obsessive app developer, then find a hobby that can’t be turned into the ne xt viral app. Or if you’re a graphic designer, then opt for an activity that involves physical activity far away from your computer screen. In my case, I found that redirecting who I wanted my hobby to benefit was the best way to get me motivated to continue it. I like writing letters, physical letters on paper with nice pens. It’s a short, sweet and simple hobby, but one that I know I can’t ever monetise and one that makes me feel content. I write to my friends, my boyfriend, my family…and it’s always so exciting receiving a letter back from them in return. It gives me the excuse to sit down in a clear space with a cup of tea and some quiet music and to just write. I’ll talk about my work, my life, my feelings and the things I have planned. I’ll write about memories I have, adventures I want to go on and I’ll ask them about the experiences they’ve had recently. Not only does this help me to feel connected to them, it’s also something that benefits me entirely away from a screen, away from my blog and my podcast and my phone. Just me, the pen and the paper.
What would your poor hobby be? Have you always dreamed of learning gymnastics or figuring out how to do magic tricks? Do you want to start creative writing, or knitting in your spare time? Find something for you that makes you happy, content and relaxed, and let it just be a simple pastime. It’s ok to let go of the millionaire millennial dream sometimes.
Thank you so much for reading. To check out my last blog post on 10 Achievements in 10 Years of a Woman, click here or to catch up the Lonely Freelancer podcast, click here!