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5 Signs Your Hobby Needs the Spotlight

You paint on the weekends. You doodle at work. You write random bits of dialogue while riding the bus. You share your daydreams over a beer with your friends. We all have little things we do in our spare time that help us unwind and relax, or perhaps it’s that kind of hobby that energizes you. After an hour or two, you go back to the demands of the “real world.”

Here’s my question: is your hobby waiting to get on stage?

It’s hard to make the transition from hobbyist to professional. It’s scary and intimidating, and it places demands on a pastime that usually helps you escape pressure. But there’s no denying that some of us relish that pressure and want our crafts and talents to expand beyond our personal enjoyment. We want to share it, and we want to nourish it, and watch it grow. How do you know when it’s time to take your hobby-relationship to the next level?

  1. You can’t stop thinking about it.
    Much like having a crush on a person, your hobby stays on your brain even when you’re doing something else. It’s an intrinsic part of your thoughts, something that never lets go. Let’s be real: if it crosses the line between “hobby” to “obsession”, then it’s begging for more than the occasional get-together.
  2. You want to get better.
    After a certain point, you actually want to hone your craft. Doing it “just because” isn’t good enough anymore, and you actually want it to improve. I’m not saying hobbyists don’t care, but the same pressure to meet a certain standard isn’t there. If you’re striving for excellence, then surely there’s more to it than just “fun.”
  3. You want to share it with others.
    I still have certain hobbies I don’t generally share, such as music composition. But drawing and writing are two things I can’t contain, not without feeling like I’m suffocating a part of myself. Sharing my work with others was certainly scary at first, but ultimately, an audience gives an ear to an artist’s voice. Without that, we’re only whispering to ourselves.
  4. You want others to take it seriously.
    What I really mean by this is “You want others to respect you as a craftsman.” This means not giving your time and effort away for free, or working for less than you’re worth. With a hobby, it’s no big deal to donate your talent, but if you’re starting to take your hobby more seriously, then you’ll want others to do the same. (This means getting paid, and getting paid well.)
  5. You’re willing to work a day job to pay for it.
    Surprise! You thought the last step would be about quitting your day job and doing your hobby full-time, didn’t you? WELL NOPE. The real test is whether or not you’re willing to support your hobby with a job you don’t necessarily enjoy. Sure, some jobs are more soul-sucking than others. But if you think your favorite hobby won’t have dream-crushing lows, then you aren’t facing reality. The reality is this: your hobby needs you alive and well, and if a day job makes that possible, then you’ve got to be willing to make that sacrifice.

Don’t get me wrong: I think hobbies are super important! I’m not saying you need to capitalize on everything you love. But if there’s something that’s tugging at your heart, begging for more attention, maybe it’s time to give that something a chance to shine. Maybe you’ll find that novel, that painting, that blog, whatever. Give your hobby a chance to grow and let yourself be surprised.

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What If Someone Already Did It?

I’m in the muddy-middle of my developing comic right now. The story almost totally nailed down, and the art for the first chapter (50 or so pages) is well underway. In a way, it’s the hardest part: the end is nowhere in sight, and the initial burst of inspiration has faded away. Around this point, I start to have doubts about what I’m doing. In particular, there’s one doubt that bears a lot of weight in my mind…

Someone else has already done this.

As artists, we are under pretty intense pressure to be creative and original. We want to be groundbreaking geniuses, so that people will marvel and say, “We’ve never seen that before!” But this pressure is so great that our fear of failure (and being labeled uncreative) is paralyzing. It’s so easy to convince myself that the comic I’m working on (heavy on the Victorian romance) isn’t original or unique, and I should go back to the drawing board until I come up with something new.

During one of the low moments, when I feared that I was a total rip-off, I decided to reread Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and my way of somehow crossing time to commiserate with both Eyre and Bronte on the troubles of storytelling and men with wives in the attic wait what. But Jane Eyre does more than give me an escape: it reminds me that the number of times a plot has been used doesn’t matter. What matters is that we find the audience who needs to hear that story again.

There’s no limit on a good story.

Jane Eyre is the story of a young woman who grows up in hardship, falls in love only to discover her lover’s dark secrets. After she leaves him (rather than compromise her morals), she inherits a small fortune. She suddenly feels called back to the man she loved, and discovers that his dark secret (and wealth) no longer stands between them. That’s…that’s pretty much it. The story of a young, lower class woman clinging to her virtues and eventually guiding the man to redemption… it’s been done. But instead of throwing the narrative away like an over-played melody, I ask myself…

Does someone still want to hear this story?

The answer will almost always be yes, no matter the narrative. The stories may have been told before (perhaps even told by brilliant storytellers), but there’s something to be said for taking on the role of a contemporary storyteller. Past literature, art, and music are all important parts of where we’ve come from. But why not share what we (you and I) feel and think right now? Bronte and I share a love for a brooding intellectual man: rather than let that commonality be a barrier for my own stories, why not use it as a building block? Surely my love of Broody McDarkster isn’t that unusual.

So instead of trying to create something that no one has ever seen, I’m trying to do the opposite: I want to tap into universal, timeless stories, with characters that (while not generic or flat) ring with certain familiarity. This isn’t copying. It’s a matter of recognizing the why behind the myths and legends that shape our very cultures. And let’s be honest: there’s no such thing as too many Mr. Rochesters.

Writing My Own Magnolia Story

I’ve been listening to The Magnolia Story audiobook lately, and Chip freaks me out. Not even kidding.

Most recently, I listened to a chapter where Chip describes how he would avoid getting “too comfortable”, and keep looking for ways to shake things up in his life. Personally, I’ve grown up with a different attitude: my approach is to always strive towards something steadfast and reliable. I actively try to get comfortable in life, and find ways to avoid change. Needless to say, while listening to this story, I spent a lot of time thinking “Chip, you’re crazy!!”

Of course, Joanna often voiced the same opinion, so it’s not like I’m abnormally clingy to comfort. Continue reading “Writing My Own Magnolia Story”

Watch Your Language: the Consequences of Self-Talk

We all know how motivating (or crushing) a few words from a friend can be. A simple compliment or criticism can make or break your day. But do we realize how often we dish out these comments to ourselves?

Most artists (especially the budding, newer types) struggle with insecurity about their work. We compare it to more professional work from more experienced individuals, and we tend to highlight our own failings. It’s a hard thing to avoid, and it quickly becomes a natural train of thought: I’m not that good… I won’t ever be that good… I’ll never be good enough. Continue reading “Watch Your Language: the Consequences of Self-Talk”

Don’t Dismiss Progress

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: you spend some time making something (a drawing, a story chapter, a poem) and you feel pretty good about it. But then you see someone else’s work and you suddenly realize that your work just isn’t good enough. It doesn’t compete. A feeling of inadequacy washes over you, and you’re not sure you know why you got into this craft anyway.

(Sorry if that stressed you out.)

We all know we’re not supposed to compare our work with the work of more experienced artists. That’s pretty much just asking to demotivate yourself, so y u do that. We do it anyway, of course. But do you know what the worst part of it is? We’re dismissing all of the progress we’ve made. We look at the finished result, and we forget about the hours and effort that went into it, all because it’s not “enough.”  Continue reading “Don’t Dismiss Progress”

Inspirational Wasteland

There are moments in life when pursuing creativity is easy. I feel inspired! I have all the right tools! I have the time I need! I’m so excited to sit down (or stand up) and CREATE! Those a golden moments that all creatives look forward to. It’s easy to create work in these moments, because we feel like there are no barriers between us and our clearly-visible goal. It’s like road-tripping with your GPS: you know how to get to your fun destination, and you even know how long it will take.

What all creatives quickly discover is that there is no GPS for most projects. There are no quick rides or shortcuts. After the initial burst of motivation, we’re left staring at the vast stretch of just do the work. I’ll be honest: that’s the part that I dread. There’s just so much, and the end seems to be totally out of sight. After I run out of that first explosion of energy, I generally fall flat on my face and wonder how I’ll ever get moving again. It really feels like I tossed myself into a massive wasteland, empty of any clear paths or signs. How do you navigate such a dried up void?  Continue reading “Inspirational Wasteland”

Maybe I’m a Morning Person

I’ll be honest: this was a slightly horrifying realization. I’ve gotten through school/life by sleeping late in the day and staying up late into the night. Writing, drawing, reading, or video gaming well past midnight and then sleeping until lunchtime: that’s always been my ideal day. But in the last few months… that just doesn’t work. Continue reading “Maybe I’m a Morning Person”