The Joy of Being an Amateur

I sing. I’m not a professional singer, but I’m part of a rock and pop choir that performs regularly at different venues across New York City. I have no desire to be a professional singer, nor do I harbor any illusions that I could be one. I’ll never make any money from singing, but it’s still something I take seriously and strive to get better at.

I sew. I started learning about a year ago, and now I can confidently make skirts, dresses and simple tops (but not pants. Yet). I take classes at different schools across the city and also spend many weekends hunched over my sewing machine at our kitchen table, figuring shit out. I post my “makes” on Instagram, and friends comment asking when my boutique is going to open. Which is very sweet, but I know — and they know — that while most of my makes aren’t half-bad, I’m nowhere near the point yet where I’d be able to profit off my relatively-newfound sewing skills.

And I write. Technically, I do get paid to write — I work in public relations, and writing is one of the skills I utilize. But that’s more a means to an end — flawlessly written press releases don’t change the world; the products and ideas they announce do. Several years ago, I maintained a blog (also about making things!) that very few people read, but writing it gave me immense joy. I had no goal or plan to monetize it; blogging just seemed like the best way to get into the habit of writing for the love of writing. Which is why I’m here.

A decade ago, I wouldn’t have understood the point of doing something wanting no outcome other than to have fun doing it. Now, I think it’s absolutely essential to carve out time for pursuits that have no professional or monetary merit. You might call them “hobbies.”

Obviously, your “day job” — whatever pays the bills — takes precedence over your hobbies. How can you make time for both? By cutting out things that neither pay the bills nor bring you immense joy:

Getting drunk: If I drink too much, I have trouble getting up the next morning. Being an early riser on the weekends — prime hobby time — is essential.

Watching TV: I watch the news but only commit to one TV show each season. I do love prestige TV and feel a slight tinge of FOMO when I hear people talking about the latest twist… but then I think of how much more time I have to sew and sing and write.

Arguing with your partner over stupid shit: Maintaining a happy home life makes it way easier to excel at work and pursue my hobbies, and for most of us (barring those in abusive situations), keeping the peace is well within our control.

Do you think it’s important to spend time on activities that will never, ever amount to professional success or monetary gain, but that make you a happier person? What are your hobbies? What have you cut out of your life to make more room for them?