Wikipedia told me about the origin of the word ‘hobby’: ‘A hobby horse is a wooden or wickerwork toy made to be ridden just like a real horse (which was sometimes called a “Hobby“). From this came the expression “to ride one’s hobby-horse”, meaning “to follow a favorite pastime”, and in turn, hobby in the modern sense of recreation. Hobbies are practiced for interest and enjoyment, rather than financial reward. Examples include collecting, creative and artistic pursuits, making, tinkering, sports and adult education. Engaging in a hobby can lead to acquiring substantial skill, knowledge and experience. However, personal fulfillment is the aim.’
Yesterday I met a man who was in his 50s and talked with him for about 20 minutes. One of the first things he asked me was whether I had any hobbies. My instinct and, indeed what I did, was to the explain that I write poetry and fiction in much of my free time. His response was, ‘Anything else?’ I said I was pretty serious about that, but that I also like to read, sew and do other crafts. He looked at me expecting me to go on. Panicked, seeming like I was falling short, I said that I also like to cook and ride my bike. He looked at me and nodded, ‘Do you like sports?’ I said not really.
Writing occupies a funny spot in my life: less than an occupation and more than a hobby. Most of my best friends understand and have a passion that functions in a similar way. It’s no less jarring though, when again and again, people have trouble grasping the way it works for me.
What might be more interesting to me is the panic I felt when called upon to list things I enjoy. There isn’t much I don’t like or I won’t try, so perhaps it would have been better to say my hobby was trying new things and end it at that.
What are your hobbies? How do you explain writing to people (if it’s not what you do for the majority of your income)? Are hobbies an outdated concept? Am I just being difficult?