Hardcore hobby or fleeting fan…when to really invest in your interests

Two Christmases ago, my mom—at my request—got me a sewing machine. Nearly three years later, my proficiency with the thing is at learner’s permit level. I’ve used it all of two times. I’m sure I decided I had to have one after seeing some pricey homemade trinket at an arts festival or on Etsy and thought, “Shucks, I can do that. Alls I need is a sewing machine.” Years later, the hobby never took off, and it sits in the closet along with a handful of other abandoned gadgets.

I think this scenario is fairly common, or at least it seems to be among the more normal behaviors exhibited by the mister and me. We pick up a hobby, invest to a degree, lose patience and move along to something else. I’ve got a stash of canvases stored under the bed and a basket of scrapbooking supplies hidden in the armoire; Heath has a dozen fishing poles living in the shed and a whittling kit buried in the desk. Some interests just don’t seem to have staying power.

We both value the need for a hobby—those pleasurable activities that occupy the time between sleep and our regular 9-5—we just have a hard time determining which ones truly deserve our attention. After all, those moments are precious and valuable, and I want to think carefully about how I spend them and how much I spend on them.

There are some hobbies that have clearly withstood the test of time: gardening and photography. But even knowing that, it becomes tricky determining when to really spend the money and time on an interest and when to throw up your hands and succumb to the notion that, no, I will never be a professional photographer, and I will never own an urban farm.


Will we ever grow veggies as healthy and happy as what we see coming from Austin’s urban farm community?

I’m always trying to find fun ways to experiment with photography. Some shots are more successful than others.

It’s a tough balancing act for me to maneuver. On the one hand, I don’t want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on equipment and supplies that will inevitably wind up collecting dust in the closet, and on the other, I don’t want to limit my potential because I didn’t invest wisely in something that required true devotion of time and resources. Will my photos forever be amateur because I didn’t invest in that fancy external flash or amazing lens (heck, even on an intro photography course)?  Will the garden always be a little less fruitful because we opted not to splurge on that seed starting light kit? It’s a tough line to walk.

Then, of course, there’s the expression that only a poor carpenter blames his tools, an idea that also seems to have a dog in this fight. I could have acquired the finest paints and brushes in all of Texas, but that won’t make my stick figures look like images in the Sistine Chapel. And it’s not that sewing machine’s fault I never bothered to finish that pillowcase. Yet, at the same time, I won’t be winning any photography Pulitzers with my iPhone camera either.

I suppose it inevitably boils down to investing time and tools in an interest or hobby for it to develop into a full-fledged talent. The Beatles famously sang “money can’t buy me love,” which seems applicable here: pouring money into a project won’t make me love it. But if time and energy are my investments, aren’t we too made to believe that time IS money? At the risk of sounding Carrie Bradshaw-esque, if you’re committed to exploring deeply in your interests, at what point should you truly invest in your “free” time and at what point do you fold?

But maybe I’m reading too much into things. Who says you have to be “good” at your hobbies anyway? Maybe simply having them—and enjoying them—is enough.

6 Comments on “Hardcore hobby or fleeting fan…when to really invest in your interests”

  1. kmom says:

    Seems that people who are accomplished in their interests do it because they are compelled to. The interest almost chooses them. Go one step at a time rather than whole hog at once. Follow where it takes you.

  2. I enjoyed reading your blog. My husband and I have done much of the same, and we have finally accepted that we are not ‘hobbyist’. I have found my calling after fighting it for many years, collecting vintage home decor and housewares. But I am running out of room! I also have a blog that I just started today about loving vintage.

  3. I know what you mean. It’s easy to think “i could do better, I could make this something if I had the tools..” but really it’s about putting in the time and putting in double the effort. If you can’t afford a lens (and it’s definitely not the lens that make the photo), for example, put some research into learning how to work a camera. Lifehacker just posted an article about getting more out of your point & shoot today as a matter of fact.


    Taking an intro to photo, definitely a great idea and worth the money.

    I just asked for a sewing machine also.. my mom was one up on me though. She brought me hers and said if you can figure mine out, you can have the thing. 😉 Seems maybe it’s not us, but maybe our parents too.

  4. mountainmae says:

    My wordpress blog is like a hobby but I love it. My newish sewing machine is sitting on the table in the sun porch waiting…..and waiting.

  5. This is so true. I’ve also gone through hobby “phases”…the two I’ve more or less stuck to have been writing and photography. Ah well…at the problem is being interested in too many things, and not too few 🙂

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