Hobby Hours

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Not too long ago I was talking to a friend about a book project they were working on. This friend was very passionate about the topic, had written pages upon pages about it over a period of several years, had a semblance of an outline for their book, but felt like they weren’t making enough headway. This person wanted to be further down the road, working on expanding the text, and shopping it to publishers and agents instead of still formulating what the project would even look like.

I asked what kind of time they set aside for this passion project of theirs. They said a few hours on the weekends. They wrote lists of stuff they’d want to do during the week, but on the weekends got carried away recouping from the work week and ended up only putting a few hours of writing time in. Solid time, but only a few hours.

And I can understand this, we work hard. When those precious couple days of freedom come around, we want to spend our time taxing our brain as little as possible. It seems like we’ve been getting punched in the soul repeatedly between monday and friday and the last thing we want is a second job that no one gets and one we don’t get paid for. So we put in an hour or two, after Facebook time and before our favorite reality show comes on, that kind of thing. We put in hours you’d put in to build a model airplane over the course of a couple months or to knit a scarf.

Hobby hours, I call them.

Because we’re not taking it seriously, whatever it is. We want to turn our thing into a job, we want to get recognized for it, noted as an expert on it, paid to do it, and teach others about it.  But then we don’t treat it like a job or a potential career, we treat it like a side project, a hobby.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good hobby, they’re important to relax and do something just for the fun of it, and not everything needs to have a purpose.

But no one is going to pay you to do a hobby. Just like you wouldn’t expect to get paid to make origami from gum wrappers or stick people out of your paper clips when you’re bored, we’re not going to pay you for something you, you know, kind of enjoy, or like, whatever, you know.

Be confident, be ballsy. You want us to take your thing seriously? Then you have to take it seriously. Start putting Passion hours into your thing. I don’t think that means you have to stay up until 2 am every night, but I do think it means you need to plan on working more seriously than you do now when you’re not at your day job.

Think of it like this if it helps; the more work you put into your passion, the faster you won’t have to work at your day job so much. Maybe you can’t quit in a month or in six, but you need to be on your way to not having all of your satisfaction/financial support/focus on your day job. They’re not that attached to you, you need to not be so attached to them.

How you do this is up to you, but I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Turn the TV off. Oh, but I’m not really watching it, it’s background noise. Well noise, ladies and gents, goes in your ear, TV goes in your eyeballs. So if you need some noise, turn on the radio, put on Pandora, listen to podcasts, but leave the TV off. The TV will distract you, it will derail your thoughts, and eventually you will camp out in front of it. Every time, no exceptions. I got so sick of this behavior on my own part that I sold my TV. Most productive people will tell you they watch very little TV. I still have my favorite shows, but they’re bookmarked on Hulu or I watch them on iTunes. I get in, get out, and move on.

2. Stop brainstorming so much. Well if I do this, then I can do that, but then this should be like this before I start that and I don’t know what to start on first…sound like your method of thinking? Brainstorming is great, for a little bit, then you need to do, not ponder forever. Make a list of 3-5 things you can do right now to get you moving. You don’t need to see 20 or 30 steps down the road before you do step 1. When you do step 1, you’ll know what step 2 is, but you won’t be able to see it until you really start.

3. Write down 3 progress points. A progress point is like a goal, but not so sticky. Think of it as a place you’d like to be in the vicinity of at a certain point. So a week out, I want you to have a list of a sketched out prototype. A month out, I want to have polished that up to a level that you can showcase it, but not yet release it. Two months out, I want to be you thinking about getting your thing to market. It’s not that ambitious, it’s totally doable. Most of the greatest novels, films, paintings, have been done in less time. You’re not going to be perfect either, but you’re going to do it which is much more valuable than the unattainable level of perfection you have in your brain.

Start tonight or in five minutes from now, but you can start this today. Time to get serious and show the world what you got.

3 Responses to “Hobby Hours

  • This is a good kick in the pants that I think all creatives need time to time. For me, I find that I work best when I use the Pomodoro technique and break tasks up into smaller chunks. I once read Laura Vauderkam's 168 Hours, and while a lot of it wasn't for me, her idea of conducting a time audit to see where your time is going is helpful in assessing where your time NEEDS to go. Here is a link to the basic worksheet she provides: http://lauravanderkam.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/168-Hours-Log1.pdf

    I wonder what the magic number of passion hours is? If one is working full-time say and still needs to get household stuff/errands, etc. done, how many hours per day/week should be spent? Or is it cumulative over a certain amount of time?

    • 🙂

      Vauderkam's article was pretty interesting. But yeah, I don't know if it was totally for me either. I think concentrated "focus hours" are better than the shotgun approach, but I think her idea is more just to negate the attitude that people don't have enough time to write if they really want to write, because the do.

      I don't know if there's ever a "right" number of hours to put in. I think if you are counting hours, you might need to reevaluate what you're putting your focus on as it may need to be readjusted. Is there time for EVERYTHING? No, there isn't, so spend your time wisely.

      If one was working on a long-running blog project, for instance, with the idea that it will lead to a book, I think at some point you have to switch gears and focus on the book. You can't spread yourself out across a bunch of passion projects and expect to be jazzed about all of them because you will burn yourself out. You need to focus on one that will get you where you want to go…quicker, let's call it that.

      Using myself as an example, I have book plans for Just Live Simple. Right now I'm working on the blog, crafting posts, connecting, meeting kindreds. But at a certain point I'm going to spend the greater part of my energy on the book because I've got a book in me and I think people would dig that. And I think if you have something in you that people can connect with, you should give them the opportunity to pick it up. That's the name of the game. In the age of the internet, anything that gets in the way of your direct relationship with your audience is a middleman who will tell you they can do amazing things for you for only 30% and that's if you can actually get them to read your stuff. Traditional publishing is dead, but that's besides the point.

      So don't worry about time, worry about focus and think hard if you're spending it on the the thing that matters most to you.

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