It’s well-noted that there are oodles of benefits to having a hobby. Usually, hobbying is framed in terms of one activity to cultivate for lifelong joy and entertainment.
But I want to concentrate on micro-hobbies. The ones that don’t last very long. The flings.
Micro-hobbies might keep your attention for a day, a week, a few months, or even a year. Then, you move on.
Micro-hobbies aren’t, or at least they don’t have to be, about getting good at something.
Nope. In many ways, they’re the opposite of that. They’re about being bad at something.
There is plenty to be gained from a short-term avocation, but it isn’t always (or may even rarely be) a widely applicable skill.
Instead, what you reap is the freedom to be mediocre. Maybe even to fail. You can find comfort in the idea that you don’t have to excel at everything you do.
See, for my next micro-hobby I want to learn to decorate cookies. The beautiful kind with intricate designs in royal icing. But I don’t want to start decorating cookies in hopes that I can become so amazing at it that I launch a side-hustle (which would, naturally, grow into a full time career) as a baker for birthday parties and other events.
I simply want to try cookie decorating on for size. I want to sample the activity and see whether it brings me enough delight to continue doing it.
I want my focus, and yours, to be on the pleasure of the pastime rather than a fury of energy toward never-ending improvement and skill acquisition. Sure, we’ll each probably get better bit by bit. But that’s not the heart of the experience.
The foundation of the practice is free exploration, deep play, and flow.
In Rest, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang dedicates an entire chapter to deep play. It’s important stuff and I can’t recommend the book (especially this chapter) enough. He talks about the value of using your downtime to engage your mind in challenging and rewarding tasks.
This is playing.
It’s “serious leisure”, the most beautiful oxymoron I’ve ever heard.
This doesn’t only come from the activities you do all the time, over and over. Getting caught up in learning and attempting something new has the same benefit.
Namely, you enter a state of flow. You completely lose yourself in an exploit. Active leisure, or the flow state, is a subject researched by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and popularized in his brilliant Ted Talk.
This isn’t one of them.
What I’m getting at is that micro-hobbies are a way to access this state of mind. They give you the opportunity to let your guard down, gifting your mind the time to be flexible, enhance your creativity, and boost your ability to focus.
Get lost in the undertaking.
Allow new ventures to lead you to parts of yourself that you never knew existed. Nurture these parts.
Make a choice driven by what sounds fun, not (at least not only) by what seems like a handy skill to have.
If I take up quilting, it’s not because I think quilting will be a useful thing for me to know how to do. Instead, the motivation is thinking that it would be deeply rewarding to snuggle up with a blanket handcrafted by me.
Oil painting won’t take me anywhere, but it’ll let me get my hands dirty and traverse another creative outlet.
Choose because you’re curious; quench your thirst for novelty.
When you’re preoccupied with the outcome, on mastery, flow state is more difficult to achieve. Your mindset should be centered on the process, not on becoming an expert at X, Y, or Z.
You should try a thing even if you think you’d be terrible at it.
Try it especially if you think you’d be terrible at it.
Explore, let go of rules and expectations, and be messy. Give yourself permission to revel in your own mediocrity and even your own failings.
Grant yourself the space to struggle.
You might get good at some of what you endeavor. You might decide to keep some around as more long-term interests. Those two phenomena may not always coincide.
Pursue new thing after new thing to show yourself your astounding capacity for growth and learning. Prove to yourself you can handle being unimpressive and that mistakes won’t break you. Being a novice in a craft can be an enlightening and deeply fulfilling experience — you just have to lean into the unknown.
You don’t always know what you’re doing and that’s perfectly okay. Use micro-hobbies to embrace this fact. Dive in, enter flow, and find peace with being an amateur.
The urge to try a new hobby is more than enough justification for you to go for it, whatever it is.
There is joy in creating for the sake of creating and in doing for the sake of doing.
Looking for that spark of inspiration? Here’s a short list to get you started:
-Floral arranging or gardening
-Cookie or cake decorating
-Hiking, surfing, dancing, tennis — any sport
-Embroidery or cross stitching
-Crocheting or knitting
-Woodworking or pottery
-Baking or craft brewing
-Playing an instrument
-Bird watching or astronomy and stargazing