Hobbies and Happiness

Sometimes people ask if I get paid to blog. The answer is “no.” I don’t get paid to blog, nor have I made more than $100 from all of my published short stories and essays combined. I spent two years writing two different novels that will never earn a dime (because I’ll never attempt to publish them). And I’ll spend who-knows-how-long working on novel #3 with no guarantee of publishing that one either.

So why do I keep going?

I keep going because I love to write. Because I hope to improve. Because I hope, one day, that my writing hobby will transform into a writing career. I also don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering “what if.” What if the next book would have been “the one?” What if I’d only tried harder?

The original question I sometimes face—Do you get paid to blog?—begs another question: Does that fact that I essentially write for free make the time I spend writing worthless? To tell you the truth, I even pay to write since I use a good chunk of my coveted babysitter time holed up in a coffee shop with my laptop.

Obviously I believe the time and money I’m spending is worth something. I can’t think of any hobbies that come without a financial burden of some kind. By investing in a hobby, we invest in ourselves. We invest in our longer-term happiness.

Wait, I hear you saying. Your kids don’t make you happy? Your marriage? Your friends and extended family? Well, yes and NO! NO! NO! Our relationships with others (spouse, kids, etc.) add meaning to our lives and enrich them in ways I couldn’t fully express. I believe those relationships make our lives worth living. But do they guarantee our day-to-day happiness and sense of self? Talk to the parent of the toddler throwing a tantrum at the grocery store, or the parent of the teenager who totaled the family car, again. What about the neighbor who’s getting divorced?

Let me illustrate further.

In January 2007, 2.5 years into my life as a stay-at-home mom, I realized that aside from giving up a paying job, I’d also let go of most of my hobbies. I’d become uninteresting and unhappy. I loved my kids, of course. And despite the years I spent worrying about my grades, getting myself into a good college, earning a master’s degree, and entering the workforce, I had no philosophical problem with the title of stay-at-home mom. But I did have a problem with the way I was spending my time.

Aimlessly wandering the aisles of Target and surfing babygap.com was not a legitimate hobby. Returning half of those purchases and repeating the cycle several times a week was not a legitimate hobby. Television was the anti-hobby Reading celebrity gossip magazines was the anti-hobby. The way I exercised (begrudgingly and without variety), while essential to my mental and physical health, was not a hobby either.

My conversations with other moms reflected the prevalent parenting culture of “we live only for our children.” I was spending entire play dates talking about whether I should buy my son the size 24-month jacket or the 3T. I was giving heartfelt advice to others on similar “dilemmas.” I knew we were all made of more than that. At least I hoped.

I whined to my husband about how I’d majored in political science and Spanish instead of English literature. I bemoaned having earned a masters in teaching instead of a MFA in writing.

So start writing, he said. He made me a chart and held me accountable to writing an hour every day. In a year I wrote my first book. I knew I’d found it: my legitimate hobby. (I blogged about his excellent coaching/pushing here.)

One day when I have serious deadlines and perhaps—I can hardly say the words for fear of jinxing it—a publisher’s advance to attempt earning back, I’ll stop calling the writing a hobby and replace it with “job” or “career.” For now I’m grateful the hobby I began only 4.5 years ago has brought me this far: ten literary magazine credits; 34,000 views on a blog I only started eight months ago; guests spots on several blogs I admire; and two unpublished BUT complete novels.

So yes, I suppose I write for free. But the time I’ve spent writing has amounted to something priceless: pride and a deep personal joy that comes with practice, hard work, and doesn’t depend on anyone else. Others find that happiness in training for a marathon, playing an instrument, planning events or raising money for non-profits, photography, golf, yoga, crafts, gourmet cooking, dance classes, adventure travel, collecting wine, fishing, skiing, voracious reading, knitting, making jewelry, painting, sailing. The list is endless with only one thing binding them together: they don’t have anything to do with your role as a parent, spouse, or employee. They’re worth investing in anyway. Aren’t they?

How do you feel about the role of hobbies in our lives? Do you think people depend on their kids, spouses, and other relationships too much in terms of personal happiness? Can hobbies ever go too far? (Example, I’m very grateful that my husband doesn’t play golf!)

Looking forward to the discussion!

(Photo credit: 3rd Foundation via Flickr/Creative Commons)

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Nina is a contributing writer at Brain, Child Magazine's website and at Kveller.com. She's also a freelance writer with articles in several anthologies as well as in The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, and elsewhere. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines. She was thrilled to participate in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother, and she enjoys co-leading the book review site GreatNewBooks.org. Nina lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.
76 Responses to Hobbies and Happiness
  1. Jack@TheJackB
    August 2, 2011 | 1:56 am

    If writing makes you happy that is all that needs to be said. We all have hobbies and things that we do because they help to make us smile.

  2. Jennifer King
    August 2, 2011 | 2:51 am

    Nina,

    I connect with this on so many levels, the obvious one being that we all need something besides our relationships. Especially moms. One of my first realizations as a mom was when I knew that I had to do something differently than what I had experienced firsthand growing up, that I needed something else to define me than letting my self revolve around my kids. Because when they grow up, and they should grow up and move on, there has to be something to stand on besides a pile of pieces of the mom they left behind.

    I love that your husband has been your biggest supporter / encourager / pusher. Mine is, too. It’s one of the best gifts he gives me, the challenge to stretch and grow and become. And I think Motherhood is one of the greatest times to find what we love to do, as our kids also discover things they love.

    Thanks for sharing on something that may cross many moms in a different way. I think there is safety found in having whole playdates for debating the pluses and minuses of a 3T versus a 24 months jacket, and basing our days on shopping and returning and the endless cycle. But there is more to living. Love it that you’re living large, Nina! Keep on pressing on.

    -Jennifer

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 10:57 am

      Thank you, Jennifer! And I look at your life as such an example of living large. Your abroad life seems like such an adventure! I love the photographs and everything else your blog (and life) entails.

  3. Leigh Ann Kopans
    August 2, 2011 | 5:53 am

    Nina. I am gushing with love for you right now. I had NO idea we were such kindred spirits. I started writing for EXACTLY the same reasons. Really, no joke. If I had to endure one more playdate where all we talked about the best brand of shoes or vaccination schedules or “stroller research” or organic fruit or screen time I was going to die. Just…die.

    For some women, it works. For me, it didn’t. There *is* the whole dichotomy of “this is silly” vs. “I totally rule” when I’m writing (thanks for your comment on my post, btw), but overall,it’s made me a much, much better person, in so many ways.

    I think, for me, there’s also one other thing – the community of writers. It’s just so loving and supportive an encouraging (for the most part,) and I really feel like a person (Jew phrase) when I engage in that.

    You’re doing such awesome work. I look up to you.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 10:59 am

      Thank you so much Leigh Ann! I didn’t get a chance to mention on your blog (though I think I might have another time) that the blog name The Naptime Novelists is pure genius. I look up to YOU for hard your working. I can see in your tweets about story and word-count progress that you’re getting the book down on the page. That’s awesome!

  4. indialeigh
    August 2, 2011 | 6:11 am

    Dear Nina, et al,

    I read this post with much interest. It resonated with me on many levels. I am not a mum, nor am I a wife, I don’t have any responsibilities for anyone else except myself. I am (by choice) single and celibate (as I write that I fear you will see me as a shrivelled up saddo. This is far from the case) I have been single..bear with me this is relevant, for 11 years and in that time I have had the space that I wasn’t given in my childhood to find out who I want to be and who I am now. I discovered the passions in my life that are mine to keep. Travel, exercise, art, architecture, science, dance, people, cooking and what I call my hobby which I hope to one day make my living at…writing. Before I was single I always looked to my partners to complete (entertain) me. To MAKE me happy and now i see this as a hideous burden to put on anyone. I would no more want to be an insipid bore as to live with one and I would soon tire of someone who had no interests of their own. Their interests and lifestyles are what usually attracts us in the first place. I think when we get with someone and loose who we are it depletes us and is a complete turn off for the other person. The burden to make someone else happy is too great and not sustainable. I see now, for me, this was a loose loose situation. I was boring, one dimensional and self drepravating…no wonder my relationships didn’t work. I have discovered that writing connects me to the deepest level within myself. It challenges, delights me and I love honing my craft. I write every day and I now feel it as an essential part of me as breathing, walking, doing yoga, cooking etc. It excites me as much if not more than opening up a new book and experiencing the magic of a story unfolding. To me self mastery is more valuable than gold. I think I’ve gained in confidence and now enjoy witnessing others become masters with their own hobbies too. I always think of the surfer..waiting for the wave that will lift them…no matter how long it takes or how cold the water. I long to write a novel, get published, be supported by an agent and have a writing career. Right now I am concentrating on my two blogs http://www.indialeigh.wordpress.com and http://www.aveganobsession.blogspot.com I feel no direction. THis is not a comfortable feeling but I am reminded of the surfer. I have faith in God that I will be guided one day and then I’ll be fired up and ready to roll and I will know the story I am to write. Writing for me is a given now. I’ll be doing it until the end.

    Do hobbies go too far? Probably if one is in a relationship and the other partner hasn’t got anything for themselves, or if it overtakes childcare. I am not for one moment suggesting that taking time out to write and getting a babysitter is a bad thing. On the contrary, I think this is a healthy practice and a positive role model. It will develop within your child the positive attitude to them nuturing and cultivating themselves which is very healthy (I think this holds for anyone influencing this in others) My mother did nothing for herself and it has taken me a long time ot ignore a voice in my head telling me I was self obsessed and indulgent. Well, perhaps that is correct but if I am balanced, fulfilled, independant and creative then I think that is a win win situtation. All good.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. I look forward to reading your responses and congratulating you when you get your first (and subsequent) book published. Your blog has given you your voice and I am SURE it has a story to tell that will be a gift to others.

  5. Julia
    August 2, 2011 | 7:09 am

    My motivation to blog has nothing to do with money either — it’s about the incentive to write everyday, the “platform” for my writing, and especially the writers I’ve met. However, I don’t consider writing a hobby because I have been paid as a professional writer (technical, business, even short fiction & nonfiction and editing). For the fiction and creative nonfiction the payment has been more of an excitement-bonus than anything; the truth is, I really can’t imagine not writing. As for being mom while being a writer — these two passions in my life ebb and flow as each calls for more or less attention at any given time.

  6. Jael
    August 2, 2011 | 7:39 am

    Really excellent piece, Nina. It’s so easy to live life on autopilot, especially with multiple kids demanding your attention. Making the conscious choice to step out of that is HUGE. So glad you decided to go the writing route!

  7. Linda K Sienkiewicz
    August 2, 2011 | 8:13 am

    You are so right about pursuing those things we feel compelled to, whether or not we make money from them. My mother never considered my writing to be anything important until I was paid for an article. “Now you’re a professional writer!” she cooed. I could have clobbered her. It’s not about the money.

    I’m not sure what you do is a hobby, though. I consider a hobby to be a venture done purely for pleasure in one’s spare time. There is pleasure in writing, yes, but it’s also hard work. Calling it a hobby undercuts its seriousness. If you’re submitting your work and getting it published, I would say you have aspirations that go beyond what I call a hobby, whether or not you get paid in copies/recognition or a check.

    Hobby makes me think of the person who, when you say you’re a writer, replies, “Oh! I have a story to tell! I want to write a book, too!” Good luck, I want to tell them. It’s not that easy.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:10 am

      Hi Linda! I chuckled at this. My mom (Hi Mom!) used to say that too. . . “How much did they pay you?” When I talked to her about it she said she was just trying to be supportive and I believe her. I genuinely don’t think she meant to undermine or belittle my work. And I’m not just saying that because she reads all the comments on this blog. ;) Seriously though, maybe for your mom it’s a similar situation. As for the “hobby” title for the writing . . . I FOR SURE have loftier aspirations. I suppose hobby was more appropriate 4.5 years ago when I started. It’s not so much the lack of $$ that makes me not call it a job as the fact that other than the occasional guest post for Writer Unboxed a few other blogs, I do the rest of the writing on my own schedule. I think a “job” comes with a certain amount of responsibility to another entity. I’m not quite there yet! (Which is maybe why I still love it!)

      • Crichardwriter
        August 3, 2011 | 10:06 am

        I laughed at this as well. Anytime I tell someone I am writing in my spare time, they say “Have you published? How much money does that make you?” I tell them I am learning my craft and that it is like attending college all over again (for the third time – I also have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s, and I too wish I had had the foresight then to take English as a major). This was an excellent article because it reminded us all that we need to have some things for ourselves – some things that we enjoy and give us a sense of accomplishment beyond someone else or what someone else thinks. I admire you for pursuing your dreams in addition to being a mother. Keep up the great work!

  8. laurastanfill
    August 2, 2011 | 8:13 am

    I relate so much to this, Nina! I have totally had that 24-month 3T conversation, and although I was writing novels before my kid was born, it’s been my lifeline back to myself for the past four years. I agree with Leigh Ann’s comment about the community of writers, too. I’m so fortunate to have my writing friends and our fabulous discussions on craft. Being a mom of a young kiddo will change as the kiddo grows older, and when that happens, I’m still going to be a writer (and a knitter).

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:12 am

      Laura, I love what you said HERE: “Being a mom of a young kiddo will change as the kiddo grows older, and when that happens, I’m still going to be a writer (and a knitter). ”

      EXACTLY! Meanwhile, I know we’re friends on Google+ but are you on Twitter. I can’t keep up with Google+ yet!

  9. Monica Marlowe
    August 2, 2011 | 8:25 am

    Well, I’ve never been married and don’t have kids, and yet I write :) I think those of us who are inspired to write have a yearning to connect, to share, to communicate. So many others have turned hobbies into a profession, and yet sometimes I think that that can change the dynamic of it … somehow it becomes work. I have a horse as my “hobby”. He’s the love of my life and I don’t ride. With a day job in an office, my barn time is sacred. So is my writing time. For years, my first novel sat in a drawer, and now it’s being released. You just never know … and better late than never!

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:15 am

      I think you’re so right about a hobby becoming “work” once it’s your profession. I’m really enjoying this stage of the writing path . . . I’m on my own schedule, I’m improving all the time, people are publishing my stuff from time to time, but I’m not quite beholden to anyone yet. It’s good for now and I AM beholden (in a good way) the three (almost four) little guys in my care. :) I love the story of your first book coming out . . . and YES–better late than never FOR SURE.

  10. jacquelincangro
    August 2, 2011 | 8:27 am

    So well said, Nina. It’s so important to stay connected with who you are and not go down the rabbit hole of daily drudgery. It’s so easy to find ourselves slipping away. Why is that?

    Bravo for finding something that empowers you and enlivens you. Giving something back to youself gives you more energy to be the best mom, wife, daughter, friend you can be.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:18 am

      Thank you so much! I couldn’t agree more about having more energy for all the people in my life when I’m also doing something fulfilling. I certainly find my husband more delightful when he’s making time to run, read, see friends, etc. Same goes for my friends! I love hearing about what different friends are up to aside from the daily grind of the goings-on at the pre-school.

  11. cym
    August 2, 2011 | 8:35 am

    I always love your blog and 99% of the time agree with it! Your writing, however, I view as your job. You are laying the ground work for your future. Much like someone would prepare for their course work, daily job, meetings, etc. you write. Right now you pay to write, in the future I trust it will be the opposite! You know running is my #1 hobby and it keeps me sane and is my “escape”. In the midst of our days- working, kids, husbands, friends, family and everything else we all do, I think hobbies are so important. And then my other hobbies; reading, traveling and crafts. I can’t imagine not taking the time to do these things that I love and need for myself. Balance.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:22 am

      Cym–you have always been an excellent example of well-rounded person: great mom, wife, friend, employee, AND needlepointer, runner, reader, cook and more. (You make my favorite tuna salad and cookies!) As for the “job” word . . . I agree that the writing at this point is like training just like college courses . . . but until I’m on a real contract it doesn’t feel too much like a job yet (and that’s okay with me. I’m sure at that point the writing will take on an element of “work” that hasn’t set in yet. Even after 4.5 years there’s a shiny newness to all this.) Thanks for commenting here and for always supporting my different writing endeavors! Means a lot! :)

  12. Julie Nilson
    August 2, 2011 | 8:37 am

    If you’re getting published, I wouldn’t call it a “hobby.” It’s just a job that you’re not getting paid for… yet. Every piece that gets your name and your work out there, whether you get paid or not, is another stop on the writing career path!

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  14. Erika Robuck
    August 2, 2011 | 8:50 am

    This is a fantastic, articulate case for hobbies for mothers. After a year at home with my first son, I felt exactly as you did. My husband would come home from work and all I’d have to talk about is how many times my son pooped or what he ate that day. Then I’d go to lunch with friends with babies and we’d talk about the very same things. Don’t get me wrong, my children are first in my life and I get great joy out of them. What I needed, however, and what I think is a good example for them, are outside interests.

    A friend of mine has two sons. The second is about to enter Kindergarten. She didn’t keep up with any education, job experience, or hobbies and now doesn’t know what to do with herself. She decided to go running while one was at sports practice recently, and when she returned he was angry at her for not watching him. She’s afraid that she’s made children who think the world revolves around them and she’s depressed that she now doesn’t know what to do with herself.

    As a counter to that, I have plenty of friends who truly make a vocation of taking care of their children and families. They home school, keep vegetable gardens together, and take the children everywhere they go. They are very happy to do so, and their kids are awesome, respectful, kind individuals. I think the bottom line is that you find what fulfills you and pursue it, keeping balance along the way.

    I’ve written my entire life, but I really got serious about it when my first son was a year old. For almost a decade, I didn’t get paid for my efforts, and in fact, shelled out a lot more money in support of writing through conferences, editors, etc. than I care to think about. Now, I have a contract with a large publisher for two books. Yes, for all of these years, I felt like I was laying the foundation of a building one brick at a time, but ten years later, I have a pretty respectable structure and the brick laying gets a lot easier as you go. Not only that, as my three boys head off to school, I have a passion that I can pursue so I’m not left wondering, “what if?”

    Somehow, it all seems to come back to the kids’ digestive system at dinner, but now I have a whole other world of thought and activity that engages me, so those silly conversations are fun instead of all-consuming.

    Nina, thank you for this post. I’m so sorry that I rambled on. You have a wonderful husband and you both sound like great parents. I wish you all the best in your writing career, and can’t wait to give you congratulations for book deals.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:29 am

      Here’s just one of the reasons I’m so excited about your book deal—hopefully you’ll come to Minneapolis on tour so we can FINALLY meet! Though I feel like we know each other so well already! Anyway, this was a wonderfully thoughtful comment. What you said HERE regarding your friend is something I’ve been thinking about for another post . . . “She decided to go running while one was at sports practice recently, and when she returned he was angry at her for not watching him. She’s afraid that she’s made children who think the world revolves around them.”

      This is SUCH a problem! When OUR parents played sports (probably our fathers to be realistic) it would have been unheard of for their parents to arrange entire family schedules around being at the games. The kids played for the love of the sport. Now we use these sports as another way to display our devotion . . . and yes, to further teach the kids that they’re the center of the universe. It’s a major issue in my opinion. Clearly I need to blog about it as I feel strongly about the problem . . . yet what did I do for 6 weeks this summer 2 nights a week? I arranged our family’s life around Sam’s soccer games.

      • Erika Robuck
        August 2, 2011 | 9:17 pm

        Thank you, and I’d love to read a post on that!

  15. Amanda Hoving
    August 2, 2011 | 9:36 am

    Loved this post, Nina! After about a year into being a SAHM, I wondered about moms who had given up every scrap of their former selves to motherhood. There are those who do this and feel content and whole, but for those who don’t…we can be fabulous, dedicated mothers, and also retain those interests that make us individuals.

    P.S. I also would not call your writing a hobby — just had to throw that in there. ;)

  16. Laura Wasserman
    August 2, 2011 | 9:54 am

    Nina, your writing is beautiful and you hit the nail on the head with this one! Thanks for making me feel better about taking up time for my hobby. . .running! :)

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:31 am

      Thank you, Laura. Actually, you’re an excellent example of a mom who took a hobby, make it a passion, and turned it into a career. So you get to keep the running as a passion/hobby, but now the training is a career. I admire you so much!

  17. Amy Fellner Dominy
    August 2, 2011 | 10:02 am

    Great post, Nina, and one I can also connect with. I had to laugh out loud about worrying over the 24 month or 2T — been there!! I’ll also agree with others who said your writing should be considered a job, though I understand why you call it a hobby. The IRS certainly thinks of it that way, as does our society who tends to judge on our earning potential. But in my thinking, the first time you submitted a story for publication, you shifted from hobby to job.
    It’s funny that as writers, we realize the need for characters to be layered and multi-faceted. But in real life, we can feel guilty if we want to be more than one thing, somehow feeling like motherhood ought to be enough. I think any hobby that allows us to be happy and fulfilled makes us better in all parts of our lives. And yes, that even includes golf. (I’m a golfer!) :-)

  18. T.M. Souders, Author
    August 2, 2011 | 10:04 am

    I can’t thank you enough for this post. As a stay-at-home mom and writer myself, who is now making some money on my writing, but not even enough to pay for gas or groceries, this totally hit home for me. Yes, I love my family, my husband, my children, more than anything in this world, but they cannot solely be responsible for my happiness. I need to have something of my own that I love, something I do to get away from it all, something that I myself own, some thing that can define who I am aside from my husband and kids. Writing.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:32 am

      YES YES YES! The perfect summary. Thank you.

  19. Sharon Bially
    August 2, 2011 | 10:17 am

    A well-needed reality check for many, Nina. Thanks. It is quintessential to invest in oneself, including investing money and time. The best things in life often have no price tag and their value can’t be calculated in dollars even if they require spending some. And the results are so much more fulfilling than spending the same dollars (or many more!) on new gadgets and home decor and all the other things that trick us into thinking they’ll bring satisfaction in the absence of a meaningful hobby or passion. (I could write an essay on what I just witnessed about this as a fly on the wall in the midst of some ultra wealthy families on Martha’s Vinyard — to my dismay.)

    Happy writing!

  20. Cynthia Robertson
    August 2, 2011 | 10:18 am

    Nina, I believe those who have found their passion are the happiest folks in the world. Your husband was wonderful to support your dreams. Mine taught me to quit wasting time and just go for it. Like you, I didn’t want to wake up one day and bemoan my stupidity in never doing what makes ME happy. As women we often feel it’s our sole responsibility to take care of everyone else, and so end up neglecting ourselves.
    I applaud you, my dear, for going for your dream. And with all those lit mag credits to your name, you are well on your way!
    Excellent post.

  21. Sharon Bially
    August 2, 2011 | 10:24 am

    I was just thinking about this a little more. In fact, the issue of the importance of having a hobby and investing in it is central to Veronica’s Nap. The whole story hinges on what happens when guilt and ambivalence get in the way of investing in oneself… Discuss!

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:34 am

      Yes! The picture I chose of paint brushes could be for Veronica. :)

  22. Jolina Petersheim
    August 2, 2011 | 10:42 am

    I completely agree with your post, Nina. After double majoring in English and Communication Arts (both requiring a deluge of writing), I found myself completely burned out, and I didn’t touch a keyboard for almost a year after graduation. Then my student loans suddenly appeared and with it came my creative wake-up call: It was time to write; it was time to get back all of that effort I had poured into my writing over the years. Thankfully, my husband was very supportive, as is yours. I’m so grateful to hear that. We’re blessed to have them.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:37 am

      Yes! Even though Bryan has stolen my baby-naming rights (see last week’s post) I still consider him one the greatest blessings of my life. Thanks for this comment too–now I feel less annoyed about not majoring in English. ;)

  23. mommytanya
    August 2, 2011 | 11:29 am

    Another STELLAR post! I want to make every mommy friend I have read this. Heck even some of my childless friends need to read this!

    3 months ago I got up the courage to create a profile on a dating website. It didn’t produce any dates BUT it did make me realize how pathetic and uninteresting my life had become. I went to work at a job I really enjoyed (but honestly accounting is not the most interesting thing in the world), home to kids I love and an extended family that support me. But aside from that I didn’t really have any friends and definitely no hobbies. I’d lost me.

    So I dumped the dating idea – because really did I need to introduce a new person into my life when I didn’t even know me. And now I’ve joined a book club and am taking yoga. I find time to go grab coffee and lunch with friend and I invite people over for dinner. It’s been amazing and I’m starting to rediscover myself :-) Yeah I don’t spend every single moment when I’m not at work with my kids but they’re better for it.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:40 am

      Tanya–I love the example of sitting down to fill out the profile and finding you had nothing “interesting” to add beyond the facts. (I love it to illustrate my point; I don’t love that felt this way!) Good for you for making the necessary changes. Maybe now it’s time to put yourself out there again!! ;)

  24. Jen Erickson
    August 2, 2011 | 11:37 am

    Oh, the natural sweet spot. This is what “hobbies” that make us zingy and hum with delicious happiness do. It’s the creative high that we get when we make something that naturally flows from who we are, a gift that doesn’t NEED us, but waits through babies, phases, and whatever else happens. It waits. But it’s always there. And oh, the feeling of joy when we make time to indulge in the passion that is as familiar as flying down a hill on your ten speed bike. Pure exhiliration. As a Mom, this is what we want to pass on to our children. Find your gift, your sweet spot. It is wholly yours and it celebrates the natural talents that you have. What could be more rewarding than that? Keep writing Nina! Save me a place at the table to raise my glass in honor of your first book being published. It will happen.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 2, 2011 | 11:42 am

      Oh Jen, thank you so much for this! So well said . . . and I appreciate your last words, of course.

  25. Anne R. Allen
    August 2, 2011 | 11:42 am

    I’m going to echo the people who’ve said your writing isn’t really a “hobby”.

    If it helps justify the fact that you’re not getting paid (yet) I do get it that it’s fun to reply to those people who ask if you get paid to blog, “No. Do you get paid to play golf/study winemaking/collect thimbles?”

    But blogging isn’t just a hobby for a serious writer–which I think you are. It’s an investment in the future. You could slog away at a meaningless job earning enough money to pay a publicist to work for you when your books are published–or you can spend the time now being your own publicist for your future self.

  26. ramblingsfromtheleft
    August 2, 2011 | 12:35 pm

    Okay, it has all been said. Ditto: I do not think your writing is a hobby. A good friend of mine was grateful her husband was obsessed with golf … she said it was the only rest she got :)

    I never thought of the writing as a way to “pass my time.” I am so COD I tend to turn all my so called hobbies into something more. I do dozens of hand crafted things and have had two small businesses on the side with my decoupage, sewing, crochet and a zillion things I can make and remake and sell or turn into lovely gifts.

    I don’t know if I actually want a hobby. I love the hand craftedt things because when the hands are moving the mind is at peace. When I write I am alive within a world I love to visit. When I read I escape into someone else’s imagination.

    I know what’s a hobby. Doing lunch or dishing with the girls … now there’s a hobby … but several famous ladies made careers out of that passtime … SITC and the syndication of Helouise and Erma Bombeck.

    Nope Nina, not even social networks or the blog/tweet/google of it all are hobbies. I guess you really don’t have a hobby, you have a vocation, an over active imagination, lots of kids and dozens of us waiting to read you every Tues. Hey? How do you like the new Sunday addition at Anne’s ??? Later :)

    • Nina Badzin
      August 4, 2011 | 6:05 pm

      Seriously, you’re one my favorite friends I’ve never met. ;) I love this comment! As for Anne’s–so great and so much action over there in general!

  27. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife
    August 2, 2011 | 12:53 pm

    Since leaving my place of work 08/10, I have begun blogging, photography and knitting… things I may have never done while working. Best wishes to you!

  28. Natalia Sylvester
    August 2, 2011 | 3:13 pm

    I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me. Ever since I can remember, writing was my hobby. But I also filled my days with other creative activities that looking back, fueled my writing. I took dance, photography, even dabbled in painting for a bit. When I made the commitment to write for a living (because writing’s what makes me happy, and the person who loves their job never works a day in their life, right?!) I dove into it headfirst. And I am truly happy with that decision, and I know that there’s nothing else I’d rather do.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing I should do. I think there was a point where freelancing defined me, just like you when you realized shopping at Gap for baby clothes shouldn’t be all you do. I now had this job (a job that I loved, but a job nonetheless) and a hobby in creative writing. I think the biggest mistake I ever made was lumping the two together. It’s true we need to make time for our writing, but for a while there I approached working on my novel like a job. It’s not. Even now as I try to see how I can mold a career out of it, I have to keep in mind that it’s a privilege. How many writers would love to have as many hours in their day to write as I do? How many days have I put “work on WIP” on my to-do list as if it’s something I need to check off?

    I get more joy out of it when I approach writing as something I “get” to do instead of something I “have” to do.

    And lately I’ve realized that I want to “get” to do other things, too. Like taking dance lessons again (I start this Sunday!).

    Thanks for a great reminder, Nina! Hobbies give our lives a fulfillment that is ours completely because they’re something we do for ourselves. I can’t wait to get back to that.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 4, 2011 | 6:08 pm

      Natalia, You should really write about this on your blog . . . it’s such a good point that if we get over-focused on the writing, we run out of creative juice and things to write about. We don’t even realize when we’re picking up writing ideas. Jennifer Weiner has something about that on her blog . . . about not forgetting to have a LIFE. It’s why she also thinks it’s great to study other things in school besides writing!

  29. Melissa Crytzer Fry
    August 2, 2011 | 5:11 pm

    Hobbies are VITAL to happiness, I think. I fell into a rut for years where ALL I did was work to build my freelance business. I did that with great success – such success that I was pulling 60 hour work-weeks – sometimes 70 – and turning work away. And the funny thing was that the whole REASON for me beginning a freelance career was to have time for the creative writing/fiction hobby…

    Last year, I re-disocvered MANY hobbies and can say I’m happier than I’ve ever been, probably. I started hiking, taking photos, blogging, and most importantly – seriously working on my fiction. It helps to have a supportive husband who ALSO has his own hobby (ham radio)… When he’s in the “ham shack,” it gives me plenty of time to interact with my fictional characters!

    And kudos for the fab accomplishments in just 4.5 years (WHILE having a clan of rug-rats under foot. I say that with every ounce of affection, of course). Woo hoo for YOU!

  30. Dale Klein
    August 2, 2011 | 7:23 pm

    Nina: Your writing is not a hobby, it is a career. You are a serious writer and just because you have not made money doing it, does not mean that it is not a career. Careers in the arts do not always pay…one usually has to have a day job also. So, when people ask you what you do, tell them that you are a writer and a mother. Two terrific careers! Love, Dale

    • Nina Badzin
      August 4, 2011 | 6:09 pm

      Dale! Thanks so much for this. I actually do write mother & writer down for “occupation” most of the time. Either way–I always say self-employed. Which is true! :)

  31. julie gardner
    August 2, 2011 | 9:01 pm

    So much of your story echoes mine; down to the two written-but-unpublished books and the fact that I don’t plan to monetize my blog;

    That I am, like you, writing for free. (And I count myself incredibly lucky for this opportunity.)

    And, like you, I write for the love of it.

    I did not stop working to raise my children. I was an English teacher and kept a position for the first decade I was a mother.

    When I took a leave of absence, it was a combination of finally reaching a place with our finances where we thought we could “swing it” for a year; a desire to be able to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms and chaperon field trips (I only kind of wanted to do that); and the goal of spending fewer weekends grading essays while the rest of my family went bike riding, swimming, hiking, living.

    Still, another main reason for me to be home (because, after all, my children were in 4th and 5th grade – full time school!) was to free me up to pursue my dream of being a writer.

    (I’d add “published” writer to that description if I could, but I don’t want to discount what I’ve already achieved.)

    The leave of absence stretched to three years at which point I had to make a choice – and I’m incredibly fortunate that my husband is currently in a position to be the sole breadwinner.

    Because who knows when or if I’ll ever make even $100.00 for my writing.

    Nevertheless, I am living my dream.
    And that? Is truly priceless.

    So thank you, Nina. You’re an inspiration.
    More than you know…

    • Nina Badzin
      August 4, 2011 | 6:13 pm

      Julie–this was great! And with everything you have in the boiler, I know it will all come together for you. Then you’ll be my published author friend who started as my “writing/blogging friend.” I kind of want to write a post about internet friends but I’m afraid to leave someone out! Also–grading essays is horrible. Takes over all nights and weekends!

  32. Hallie Sawyer
    August 2, 2011 | 9:12 pm

    Gee, you think you might have hit a nerve with this post! Holy comments!

    You have articulated exactly what writing has done for me. I think back at the time that I felt frustrated, unsatisfied, and searching yet never knowing what for. I had great kids, a wonderful husband, the opportunity to stay home and raise my kids. What else could I need? Guilt from not feeling truly happy all went away when I started writing.

    I am thankful every day that I have found something I love and that it’s something I can do every day. I am learning as I write and that is sooo important to my mental health. I missed the brain activity. I believe mothering takes more of a mental toughness and good common sense than a high I.Q.

    It is so important to let our kids see their parents as multi-dimensional (in other words, the world does not revolve around them). This post was perfect and explained that so wonderfully.

    Love, Hallie

    P.S. Your site looks awesome! Very professional, Ms. Badzin. ;)

    • Nina Badzin
      August 4, 2011 | 6:14 pm

      Hallie, SO TRUE:” It is so important to let our kids see their parents as multi-dimensional (in other words, the world does not revolve around them”

      Thanks for the compliments on the blog’s “look.” I’m still just using the free wordpress.com. I’ve finally gotten a hang of the design part of it though. At least a little!

  33. Mary Pfeiffer
    August 2, 2011 | 10:11 pm

    A few decades ago I thought I was a bad mom when I felt the need to do something just for me. Now retired, I still am a happier person–who then productively serves others–when I work on a valid hobby (beyond playing cards with 5 different social groups).
    So happy to have found your writing! How about blogging the steps you took to get so many readers? (It’s obvious to readers that your words pack a wallop, but how did you help them find you?)

    • Nina Badzin
      August 4, 2011 | 6:39 pm

      Hi! I think there have been 3 important steps in my blog being successful:

      1. I was Twitter for nine months before I started my own blog. So I made Twitter friends without having to Tweet about myself.

      2. I was a reader and commenter of other blogs for a year or more before I had my own.

      3. This one is more of a hope than something I know for sure, but I’m hoping that the content keeps people coming. :)

  34. Katie
    August 4, 2011 | 4:28 am

    What a great post! You seem so professional and confident so I assumed you were a paid writer. I am glad someone else feels like me, at a talk once the speaker said it had taken her so long to be able to utter the words “I am an artist” because it wasn’t her job and she didn’t have a degree in it. I think that’s how a lot of us committed writers feel, we do it everyday and work hard but we’re not paid- yet we are writers. Just because something isn’t paid for, doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Some of the most amazing jobs are voluntary, as writers we share our work with lots of different people, just because they don’t pay us a fee for that doesn’t mean it hasn’t enriched their lives.
    Keep writing!
    Katie xx

    • Nina Badzin
      August 4, 2011 | 7:16 pm

      Katie, thanks so much! It’s so true that all artists suffer from that worry of calling ourselves “writer” or “artist.” It’s really difficult to “own” that word for some reason.

  35. sharon bially
    August 4, 2011 | 10:53 am

    Was just looking this over again (since I’ll be linking to it in an upcoming post!) and noticed how many people weighed in to say that writing’s not a “hobby.” I totally agree. Since when did “hobby” become synonymous with “unpaid?” Does that make motherhood a hobby? I like to think of writing as my passion and “life’s work.” Not the source of my livelihood, not even a source of supplemental income, but simply the mission that has and always will shaped my choices and my path.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 4, 2011 | 5:25 pm

      Hi Sharon et all! So, this keeps coming up. Maybe it’s all just semantics. I started writing 4.5 years ago in a “hobby-ish” kind of way. I take it very seriously now and see it as a career path . . . but not really as a “job.” MEANING, it’s a passion and I do it by choice and nobody there are no true consequences for me NOT doing it other than disappointing myself and missing the process of writing. IF I had an actual contract or deadline I’d feel differently. It’s not a money thing . . . even IF I had a book, I imagine I’d have to pour far more into the marketing, childcare while I wrote, etc, to really call any advance/royalties a profit.

      Anyway, I really have other activities I see as pure hobbies whereas the writing is something different. My MAIN point overall, is that people (not just moms, but everyone) feel happier when they’re making time for something (weekly, montly, daily, whatever) for the pure joy of it.

      Looking forward to your post!

  36. Men Need Passions Too -- VERONICA'S NAP
    August 4, 2011 | 9:30 pm

    [...] recent blog post by Nina Badzin got me thinking, as I often do, about hobbies and [...]

  37. Lisa
    August 7, 2011 | 7:56 am

    This is an amazing post, one that has stayed in my mind and heart since first reading it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nina, for helping me not to feel guilty about the tremendous satisfaction that I get from creative hobbies.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 7, 2011 | 2:22 pm

      Thank you so much, Lisa! What a wonderful message for me to receive this morning!

  38. Lisa L. Regan
    August 7, 2011 | 5:39 pm

    What a fabulous post. You have such an amazing take on this. I love it! I would never have gotten through the stress of raising a toddler and holding down a full-time job in a really crappy economy without some release and my writing is that release. I love it because it’s something I do for me. It’s something I’ve always done for me–it’s been constant and consistent and I take great pride in that. My life has changed so much but the writing stays the same. It’s the one thing I refuse to give up when life gets hectic. You’re so right–I know a lot of women who are equally as passionate about running or scrapbooking. Those are their hobbies. Mine happens to be writing. I have always said if none of my novels sell, I’ll still keep writing. Really wonderful post.

    • Nina Badzin
      August 9, 2011 | 2:22 pm

      Thank you, Lisa! I think you hit on something about being a writer that’s key. You have to love it aside from the publishing piece, which is it’s own animal. When are you going to get on Twitter already? ;) Wait–are you?

  39. Leah
    August 10, 2011 | 12:21 am

    So glad to have found your blog and really love this piece! I’m the same way — I blog/write because I love to write. I’ve always been a writer. But now I feel that if I didn’t have writing, I’d be lost. It’s such a part of me. Anyway, looking forward to following you and I LOVE your header!

  40. Sharon
    August 10, 2011 | 7:30 am

    I love your perspective! We pursue our hobbies because we love them and they help define us as a person – not because we make money! That’s why I blog! I’d love to have you guest post on Hobbies on a Budget where I feature tips and stories about hobbyist who pursue their passions. Interested? I’d love to hear from you! Whether you want to guest post or not – Kudos to you as a Mom for making the time to keep on following your dreams!!!! Thanks! Sharon

  41. Pop
    August 15, 2011 | 9:35 am

    I think your writing is fantastic so your “hobby” definitely became something more. I’m very late to this comment party, so not sure if anyone has touched on it yet, but I think gender also plays a role in the hobby-relationships balance for parents. For my wife and I, and some other friends who are married with kids, it seems the wives feel almost guilty to be doing things away from home and that they need to justify it with some sort of tangible benefit, whereas most of the guys take up hobbies with very little thought.

  42. Michelle O'Neil
    August 28, 2011 | 4:38 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post. It is easy to feel like we have to justify ourselves if our writing is not supporting us financially. Love your take on it.

    Thanks also for the Twitter tips at Writer Unboxed!

  43. Cristina Luisa
    November 3, 2011 | 7:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience with writing and what keeps you dedicated. As someone who is getting back into writing after a long hiatus, it is definitely difficult to keep in mind why you write, especially when those around you question its merit. You’re right- writing is a much more worth-while hobby than scouring the aisles of Target and online shopping. :) Even if it doesn’t earn you a paycheck (which, hopefully, it will), it is something that helps define your identity, brings self-happiness, and above all, makes you feel that your creative life is worthwhile.

    • Nina Badzin
      November 4, 2011 | 4:51 pm

      So glad you liked the post and can relate. By the way, so fun to receive a comment on a older post. :) Welcome!!

  44. [...] be a linked collection), and I hope to lose the baby weight, take care of these four kids without losing my mind, and still find the time and sense of humor to discuss things like friendship and [...]

  45. Selena
    January 25, 2012 | 12:53 pm

    Thanks. I have two little ones at home and have been feeling that “I’ve lost myself” mummy feeling lately. I’m not a writer but I love being creative. This post has really inspired me :)

  46. The Habit of Doubt | Lisa Ahn
    May 22, 2012 | 8:01 am

    [...] she is writing about the importance of doing what you love, the value of a steady reading habit, healthy marriages, or the challenges of parenting, Nina [...]

  47. [...] in other people. In fact, one of the most popular posts on this blog is one I wrote last summer exploring the link between hobbies and happiness. It seems we all like the idea of hobbies, even if making time to pursue them remains [...]

  48. A Blogging Facelift | Nina Badzin
    August 21, 2012 | 4:46 pm

    [...] Stephanie, that I find it highly offensive. I will first direct you to a piece I wrote called “Hobbies and Happiness,” which addresses why anyone does anything without getting paid. But beyond the facts of how much I [...]

  49. [...] in other people. In fact, one of the most popular posts on this blog is one I wrote last summer exploring the link between hobbies and happiness. It seems we all like the idea of hobbies, even if making time to pursue anything outside of work [...]

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