CRE­AT­ING COL­UMN Find­ing a new hobby can in­spire creative growth.

Mak­ing time for your­self is im­por­tant – but it’s what you do with that time that can bring growth

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Sara Tasker (@me_and_orla) / Il­lus­tra­tion: Joanne Ho SARA TASKER is a photographer, writer and creative coach who goes by the name Me & Orla. She shares her beau­ti­ful images over on In­sta­gram (@me_and_orla) and also hosts a pod­cast for cre­atives (

Why are there no good words for hob­bies? Pas­times, in­ter­ests. They all sound a bit ba­nal, con­jur­ing vi­sions of stamp col­lect­ing in musty sheds, or trainspot­ting on a dreary Fe­bru­ary morn­ing. There’s noth­ing as­pi­ra­tional about the word ‘hobby’; it’s diminu­tive – th­ese are small, unim­por­tant things that ll time. And in the dig­i­tal age, they seem to be a bit out­dated.

I used to be some­body with lots of hob­bies. In fact, it was some­thing peo­ple com­mented on: “You’ve got so many things that you like to do!” I blogged, I took pho­tos, I was an ac­tive part of some thriv­ing on­line com­mu­ni­ties. I hoarded nov­els in a vast, rain­bow-spined wall, I took yoga classes. My hob­bies, in many ways, were my iden­tity.

And then things changed. A chronic ill­ness meant I had less en­ergy to do any­thing phys­i­cal. I had a baby, and my free time shrank down into the small frag­ments that tted around her needs. Then I launched my busi­ness, turn­ing some of those hob­bies – pho­tog­ra­phy, writ­ing, the in­ter­net – into my ev­ery day. For a long time that sus­tained me. My work was my hobby and my hobby my work – if I was bored, I would work more, and that suited me. When you love what you do, why would you need to do any­thing else?

About a year ago I was in­vited to Google HQ for an event. A smil­ing wo­man sat me down to ll in some pa­per­work – what did I do for a job? I ex­plained, as usual, the rangy, multi-hy­phen­ated role of an on­line creative. And then she said, “and what do you do for fun?”. I was stumped. I’d like to say my mind sim­ply went blank, but the truth is, there was noth­ing for me to try and re­mem­ber. The clos­est I had was “tweet­ing Luke Sky­walker” or “pick­ing my in­grow­ing leg hairs”, and I knew th­ese wouldn’t quite cut it.

I’d love to re­port that I came away that day and made some changes, but the pace of my life meant there was still no space for any­thing more. But shortly af­ter, my hus­band came on board with my busi­ness, and then my daugh­ter be­gan to spend longer in school. I eased back on say­ing yes to ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and, grad­u­ally, more space ap­peared. But what rushed in to ll that space was bore­dom. Not the calm, peace­ful bore­dom of a sunny Sun­day af­ter­noon but a prickly, dgety feel­ing of ir­ri­tabil­ity and malaise. I wanted to do some­thing, but noth­ing ap­pealed any more. Years of sched­ul­ing meant that free time came with baked-in pre­cious­ness, and noth­ing seemed good enough to ll it with.

I re­alised I needed to gure out what I ac­tu­ally found fun. My health is­sues still pre­sented an ob­sta­cle; I was af­ter some­thing I could do sit­ting down, and I re­ally didn’t want it to in­volve a screen. Even­tu­ally I stum­bled across two things that tted; I’m learn­ing to play the pi­ano and em­broi­der­ing gor­geous Ja­panese pat­terns when my daugh­ter’s asleep.

What I’d for­got­ten, in those long, hob­by­less years, was the dis­com­fort of do­ing some­thing en­tirely new. It’s like start­ing high school – all the hard work you put in be­fore be­comes mean­ing­less. When we stick to the pas­times or skills that we’ve been per­fect­ing for decades, we have the lux­ury of ex­per­tise and prac­tice to make them easy. As a begin­ner, it’s full of fric­tion – the dis­com­fort of do­ing things wrong, the unease of tread­ing un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory. My rst em­broi­dery at­tempts were a bit wonky and sad. And does some­thing even ex­ist if it isn’t good enough to share on In­sta­gram?

But, of course, this dis­com­fort is where all the good stu is. It’s how we grow, how we build em­pa­thy, how we learn to teach oth­ers, as a par­ent or aun­tie, teacher or friend. It’s where we prac­tise pa­tience and kind­ness to our­selves. It’s how we know that any­thing is pos­si­ble, if we stick at it and put in the hours. It’s where our cre­ativ­ity gets to come out of the cage, and stretch its wings in a fresh patch of sun.

Not ev­ery­one has the lux­ury of free time, and how to ll it is a bit of a rst world prob­lem. But that doesn’t mean that hob­bies are unim­por­tant. In fact, I think mine might be the most im­por­tant thing I’ve done for my­self all year.

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