I recently, for the first time in my adult life, developed a hobby–is that how you describe it? I developed a hobby? That makes it sound like a disease.
I acquired a hobby? No, that’s worse.
I am now doing a thing that I don’t have to do simply because it makes me happy. There.
A few weeks ago, a friend
tricked helped me build a new aquarium, which opened the door so many future ideas about tank design. I have always loved aquariums and kept a few of my own with varying degrees of success. I had a tiny one already in my apartment but, through envy of my friend’s tanks and a desire to have both a carnivorous plant garden (don’t ask) and a new aquarium in my small apartment, I asked how I might go about combining the ideas and then two weeks later I had a 29 gallon bog garden aquarium. My friend did the heavy lifting (literally) and was instrumental to the set up. Since he’s also in my writing group, I take this as a lesson for why you should always have a writing group!
Funny enough, none of the six or so creatures living in that tank are visible in this photo. It’s almost like they’ve learned from Zoe not to participate appropriately in picture taking.
The point is I now have some sundews, butterworts, and bladderwort on the peat moss/sand mix up on the left (with room for a few more) and an amateur Amazon-themed basin on the right. And I’m not even done stocking the freaking thing. There’s a betta in there now who will soon be getting his own, Japanese-themed tank and then a school of tetras may move in.
I have loved filling my apartment with life. When I sit on my couch, I am surrounded by plants and animals that make me feel more at home than all the modern luxuries I can’t afford ever could. This was an unexpected side effect that has enriched my life more than I thought a simple glass box of water and plants (and fish, and snails, and a frog) could do.
But the main point here is that I pour time, money, and effort into these tanks not because I need to or am required to or because there’s a return other than happiness (and, occasionally, more stress). I just do it because I want to.
Before aquariums, I filled my life with work, writing, running/hiking, dog therapy, reading, and television. I would consider none of these hobbies. Work is obviously my source of income, running/hiking my main method of exercise which I need to stay healthy, dog therapy is a volunteer service, I read for fun but also as a writer, and TV shows are just my way of being lazy. I write because I need to. There may be long stretches of time where I could get away with not writing, but, eventually, I will need to come back to the page if only to pour out the ideas in my head and give myself some peace.
It didn’t really hit me that writing was not at all a hobby until I was at a Petsmart about to drop about $50 on a few of the supplies I needed for this new tank and all I could think about was how cool it would look (and it looks much cooler in person). If I don’t want a new tank or a new fish, I don’t have to get one (I do have to keep up the maintenance, but there are ways for me to downsize if I want to). But I write when I don’t want to, I give up social events and entire days to catch up and meet deadlines. Because I’ve made the decision to pursue this as a potential source of income and that requires discipline.
My writing currently returns only the satisfaction I get from writing well, so I thought for a long time that it might be a hobby. But it isn’t. It’s work for which I haven’t yet been paid. It’s exercise for my mind that I need to do in order to stay healthy. It may make me feel good (sometimes), but it’s work and it’s necessary and that means it’s not just for fun.
But, let’s be honest, it’s also fun. 😉
I know a lot of writers feel like they need to write in order to stay sane (well, as sane as we can be, right?). Do you view your writing as a hobby or as work or exercise?