Monday, September 27, 2010

Hobbies versus Work

The other day, my husband heard a radio announcer say, “Only people who don’t like their jobs have hobbies, or firemen and policemen who only work four days a week.”

Really? What’s your first reaction to that?

My husband builds and races cars as a hobby. He says it’s a stress-reliever, although his race engines require constant attention and occasionally the bodywork needs a full rebuild, which makes it appear stressful to me. He works four days a week, which is why the announcer’s statement grabbed his attention.

As a retiree (a group completely overlooked by the announcer), my mother-in-law collects dolls and belongs to a doll club where they invite guest speakers to share their expertise about items like 18th century French dolls. She enjoys playing with her “dollies,” dressing them in fancy clothes and arranging them in tableaus on her cabinets. It keeps her out of the casinos, which is her other pastime of late.

Another overlooked retiree, my dad, designs, builds and flies model airplanes. He spends hours creating, then sometimes crashes the whole effort on the first flight, curses a bit, and starts over again. Again, it looks stressful and expensive to me but he loves it.

I have always named reading as my hobby, but I have been known to sew, quilt, knit, needlepoint, embroider, stencil, paint, emboss velvet, bead, build dollhouses, and more. Of course, sometimes I write but once you show a profit, the all-knowing IRS doesn’t see writing as a hobby anymore even if I do. Now it’s a job.

This brings us back to the announcer’s statement. Do hobbies satisfy some need in people that their jobs don’t? Do hobbies fill empty hours and give people some sort of feeling of time well spent and/or achievement? Why do people have hobbies? And what constitutes a hobby?

My 1976 American Heritage dictionary defines a hobby as “an occupation, activity or interest, such as stamp-collecting or gardening, engaged in primarily for pleasure; a pastime.”

An activity engaged in for pleasure. A pastime. Oh dear, does that mean going to the casino qualifies as a hobby? With that definition, going to the mall or the movies could qualify, but I’ve always thought of a hobby as something more significant, more tangible, with a positive result like beautiful landscaping or a lovely handmade scarf or a carefully selected collection. Even sports like golf or tennis didn’t quite qualify as a hobby in my mind because supplies can’t be purchased at a hobby store, but this definition would include them—wouldn’t it?

In fact, this definition, minus the examples, is vague enough to include almost everything one enjoys doing. Is that the key? It’s work if it’s not pleasurable and it’s a hobby if it is? Therefore, if you enjoy your work, you don’t need a hobby because it satisfies on all levels?

What do you think? Wait—would reading blogs and responding to the questions asked qualify as a hobby if you enjoy it? Yikes!


Sherri said...

I think that radio announcer doesn't know what they are talking about! I think hobbies are just wonderful things to get us to relax and to do something different than our work. I knit, garden and read books. I started knitting to learn something new and to make things as gifts or for me or someone to wear. I started blogging to meet other people and to share things in my life. I wonder why other people have hobbies! It was a very good question.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Up front, let's set the record straight - that announcer is a ninny.

I believe almost anything qualifies as a hobby if it is an activity someone enjoys and does for relaxation and spends a great deal of free time doing it. Jobs are what keeps a roof over our heads, and sometimes folks are lucky enough to turn a hobby into a much loved job. To me, a hobby can be anything from stamp collecting to reading to participating in fantasy football. (Yes, even casinos.) It can be very physical like skydiving and biking or sedentary like needlework. The key element is that it be something enjoyed for enjoyment's sake.

Alan Orloff said...

I agree with the others, and I'll add another qualifier: A good hobby should have a magazine devoted to it :)

Beth Groundwater said...

I love Alan's comment! And now I have a question of my own, would you call participation in sports a hobby, especially if you don't compete in those sports. Along with reading and gardening, I like to ski, whitewater raft, hike, and bike.

Dru said...

I think that radio announcer needs a hobby.

I love to quilt and I love to read and I enjoy them as it exposes me to new adventures that we don't get with our job.

Lois Winston said...

Talk radio is full of blowhards who pontificate on topics of which they know little or nothing. I'm guessing that radio announcer is one such person.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

OMG! I just remembered something I stumbled upon in some research years ago.

Did you know that men who devote a lot of time to prostitutes, call girls, etc. are called "hobbyists?" There are even blogs and escort rating message boards for these "hobbyists."

Talk about a hobby that's expensive!

Lisa Bork said...

Sherri - You must be a better knitter than me to find it relaxing. I always miss a stitch.

Sue Ann - A ninny. Perfect! And I wonder if Tiger Woods' wife would have forgiven his adventures in womanizing if he called it a hobby?

Alan - A magazine. Good point!

Beth - Participating in sports is exercise, but also a hobby.

Dru - You're right, he does. He was just jealous of the rest of us.

Lois - Can't disagree with you there!

Darrell James said...

Hmmm, prostitutes as a hobby, Sue Ann? I think that probably started when some clever fellow had to explain himself to his wife.

Lois Winston said...

Or a judge, Darrell:
"But your honor, my wife told me to stop being a couch potato and get a hobby!"

Keith Raffel said...

People keep trying to chalk up writing as my hobby rather than my profession. Not how I see it.

Terri Bischoff said...

I've always called reading mysteries my hobby too, but it's more than that. Yes, it's my job, but it's also more than that. If I didn't work in books, I would still read crime fiction all the time - it's my passion - and so it enhances my job.

My other hobbies... bowling, cooking, playing volleyball of softball, etc... those I could give up. Maybe that is what makes it a hobby. Yes it's fun and brings happiness, enjoyment, satisfaction, whatever... but you could walk away from it without causing major heartbreak.

I could not stop reading without it affecting me to the core.

Lisa Bork said...

Keith - I got my dictionary out again. "Profession: an occupation or vocation requiring training in the liberal arts or the sciences and advanced study in a specialized field." I always thought of a profession as something that pays enough to support oneself, too.

Terri - I would never give up reading either :)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Lisa, you need to update that dictionary. According to Mirriam Webster Online, "profession" means:
a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation; a principal calling, vocation, or employment

My belief is if you get paid, it's your profession.

Lisa Bork said...

Sue Ann - No doubt my dictionary is out of date but my grandparents gave it to me, so I'm rather fond of it. "A principal calling"--sort of like those character voices in an author's ear :)

Carol Grace said...

What a lot of interesting "hobbies!" What if we gave up our knitting, heli-skiing, gambling and reading other people's mysteries, think of how many more books we could write, different series with new sleuths and exotic locations. Think of the royalties that would come rolling in. But a life without hobbies? Not for me.

Lisa Bork said...

Carol - I had to look up heli-skiing. Do you do that? Sounds awesome.