If there’s one illusion the current pandemic has shattered, it’s the idea that work is everything. In our fast-paced, capitalist society, one’s worth as a human being has often been equated with our profession.
But now that the entire world has essentially shut down, we’ve been confronted with more complicated questions, like: Who am I when I’m not at work?
Countless people have lost their jobs or been indefinitely laid off. Unemployment rates are skyrocketing. Suddenly, work is no longer a given part of everyone’s lives and identities.
So, where do we go from here? A good place to start is by cultivating hobbies. And creative writing is one of my favourites.
Finding a new sense of value
In the context of a career-driven, capitalist, and consumerist society, hobbies haven’t always been valued.
Many have wondered: Why “waste” your time on activities that won’t explicitly further your professional ambitions? Why spend hours working on a skill that won’t necessarily make you much (if any) money?
And look — I get it. Money is important. It drives so much of our day-to-day lives. Without adequate funds, you can’t put a roof over your head, feed yourself (and your family), or even afford the time to pick up a leisure activity.
But if your basic needs are being met, there is so much value in picking up a hobby. Because we, as human beings, are not meant to be money-making machines. We’re complex, multi-faceted individuals, each with our own talents, interests, and passions.
Not every interaction needs to be an opportunity to “network.” We can (and should) spend some of our time doing things just because we enjoy them — not in an effort to beef up our LinkedIn profiles.
The psychological benefits of hobbies
And hobbies aren’t just for fun — they can have concrete and seriously meaningful benefits. For example, psychologist Joyce E.A. Russel writes for the Washington Post: “Research has shown that people who have hobbies are generally healthier, and have a lower risk of depression and dementia.”
As someone who’s dealt with mental health issues for basically my whole life, I can attest to the fact that hobbies can help provide meaning and structure.
Engaging in your favourite leisure activity is most certainly an act of self-care — which is a term that gets tossed around a lot these days. As many of us are now adapting to slower, less hurried lives, hobbies are easy shortcuts to accessing moments of joy, relief, and comfort.
Why pick up creative writing?
So, now that we’ve talked about the basics of why hobbies are important, let’s look at an example of what you can pick up. Obviously, as this is a blog about writing, I’m a bit biased. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, writing poetry has personally been a source of life-long comfort.
And the thing about poetry is that there really isn’t much money in it. Unless you happen to blow up and become an international best-seller (à la Rupi Kaur), you should never become a poet with the intention of making a living off it.
Even the most talented and well-respected poets of our time typically still have “real jobs” as professors, teachers, or publishing professionals to pay their bills. And yet, they still write creatively, knowing that their reward for doing so will likely not be monetary.
The act of writing allows one to process their thoughts and emotions into tangible words. It gives the writer time to pause, reflect, and craft something meaningful out of the mess of existence.
In 2020, amidst a global pandemic (and collective suffering/outrage over racial injustice), we could all use a few moments of reflection. Taking just a few minutes per day to write can have lasting benefits.
The timing has never been better
So, if you’re a writer — even just as a hobbyist — give yourself permission to get creative. Many of us now have plenty of free time on our hands, and writing is one way to keep yourself engaged.
Is there a novel you’ve been meaning to write? A great idea you’ve had on the backburner? Curious about writing a poem or two? Or just interested in starting to journal?
Now is a great time to start. And not for the purpose of “getting things done” or staying “productive” — just because you want to!
Truly: if not now, when?
If you need inspiration for getting started, check out these past posts from the Writing Advice blog:
No matter what your hobby — whether you’re a painter or a home cook — remember to carve out time for doing the things you enjoy. Just because we’re all collectively going through a difficult time doesn’t mean that you should let your fear or sadness consume you.
Taking time to do things you truly enjoy — regardless of their money-making potential — can help offset the widespread stress of living through a pandemic. Remember to be gentle with yourself and afford yourself the time to unwind.
As always, thanks for reading the blog. Be sure to subscribe so that you can receive new, weekly articles straight to your inbox.