The importance of creative hobbies
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a great deal of change into our daily lives — including an uptick of creative hobbies. While there’s little empirical data on the topic of how many people have taken up such pursuits during the pandemic, analysis of media sources and web searches suggests a surge in interest in activities such as baking, drawing, painting, and photography.
Over the last two years, people have had more time to pursue hobbies due to a reduction in commuting, socializing, and group activities. Many are starting new things just for the fun of it — a great and affordable way to relax, reduce stress, meet new people, and get inspired.
Benefits of creative hobbies
- Reduce stress: Creative pursuits can help hobbyists relax and enter a state of “flow,” which promotes stress reduction and a positive state of mind. A hobby like photography can provide further stress relief by providing a motivation to roam about in nature.
“You can always find some new kind of light or some new scene or some new angle in the places near where you live,” says Clark Munson, an accountant by day in Calgary, Alberta, who has been taking nature photos for 15 years. “I like that it sparks those creative juices in me and helps me appreciate the beauty of what’s around me.”
- Be in touch with your emotions. Creative hobbies can provide an avenue for self-expression, which is a good way of processing emotions. Considering the stressors presented by the pandemic, this may be another reason why interest in these activities is soaring these days.
- Connect with others. Creative endeavors naturally draw people together to share, learn, and appreciate. Hobbyists who pursue arts like painting or photography can easily meet like-minded people and gain a sense of camaraderie by engaging in local groups, courses, and events in their community related to their hobby.
Briana Parks, of Redding, California, started as a photography hobbyist in high school and eventually became a professional elopement photographer. “Having that hobby helped me meet new people I would not have met otherwise,” she says. “For example, I met a few of my best friends because I found out that they loved taking pictures, too, so we would all go out and take pictures together.”
- Build an online community. Since many social events are curtailed these days, hobbyists might choose instead to engage more heavily with online communities to meet others who share their interest. Posting and conversing online in ways that promote a creative endeavor can feel more purposeful and fulfilling than endlessly scrolling.
- Just jump in. Creative hobbies can be low or no-cost — all you need to start drawing, for instance, is a paper and pencil. Even pursuits that were expensive in past decades, like photography, are now affordable because of new technologies that anyone can access. Many people already walk around with excellent cameras right in the phones in their pockets.
“My mom had an iPhone 4, and that was what I started on,” remembers Parks. “I would take her phone and do photos and videos.”
- Escape from a profit motive. In an economy where it seems everything is subject to a cost-benefit analysis, pursuing a hobby can be refreshing. The idea is to do it just because you like it, not because it will lead to professional or financial reward. While it can be fulfilling to turn your hobby into a career, a business-oriented mindset can end up spoiling all your fun.
- Engage in your own learning. Students who are engaged in hobbies can bring those interests into the classroom, whether by including them in class discussion, using them as topics for assignments, or taking up corresponding extracurriculars at school. They can also apply class learning to those hobbies at home, such as using lessons in light and color from physics class to improve your photography or drawing skills.
- Improve educational outcomes. Students who pursue their hobbies and interests in the form of extracurricular activities have been shown to be less likely to drop out of school. Other research shows that involvement in extracurricular activities boosts participation and achievement in school.
Creative hobbies you can start today
There is a wide range of creative hobbies that you can start today with very little cost. Try out some of these ideas to begin on a new creative path.
With smartphone cameras reaching a phenomenal level of quality, many people already have what’s needed to take up the hobby in a serious way. A variety of apps can help amateur shutterbugs snap and edit seriously good shots and videos. And thriving social media groups and boards provide lots of community and opportunities to share your creations. Hobbyists can take professional-grade pictures and make remarkable videos — even whole movies — using the device in their pocket.
“I just bought the iPhone 12, and the reason I got it is because of the camera,” says Margine Biswas, an architect in Dallas, Texas, who took up photography to document her building projects and take pictures of her friends and family. She uses Adobe software to enhance her photos and make collages and arrangements of images that she shares online.
Drawing is as easy to start as picking up a pencil. But even those who need a little training before they feel comfortable making some marks on the paper can get what they need via affordable online classes on sites like Domestika and Udemy.
Like photography, drawing has the advantage of encouraging you to see the things around you in new ways and, if you so choose, to get out in nature to document what you find outdoors. Drawing requires slowing down and observing the world, a good way of relaxing and reducing stress.
Creative writing is another ultra-affordable hobby — just put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and you are off to the races. Unlike drawing, writing is something most have some training in, so it’s often possible to create an enjoyable story without any extra advice or guidance.
However, there is a lot to learn about creative writing for those who want to hone their craft, and online resources aplenty to help them. Ambitious beginners can get training from famous writers like Margaret Atwood or get free help from a site like edX. Those looking for encouragement and community can participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which encourages all comers to complete 50,000 words of a novel in a single month.
Making is a term that refers to DIY inventing and tinkering to create new things or alter existing things by hand. The activities under the maker umbrella range from traditional to digital, with practitioners doing everything from building robots to metalworking to mixing cosmetics. The maker culture is defined by a hands-on, creative ethic, a sense of community, and a focus on sharing and inspiration.
Makers congregate in “makerspaces” — there at least 100 of these in the U.S. and many more around the world. These workshops are places where makers can cultivate community by sharing knowledge, ideas, and tools. Newcomers can start tinkering in their own garages or join a local makerspace to find like-minded others. Seeking out a maker fair, especially an official Maker Faire sponsored by Make magazine, is a good way to see what’s going on in the maker universe and where you might fit in.
Coding may be a job for some people, but for many others this digital pursuit makes for a satisfying hobby. Coding is all about creating digital things — websites, apps, computer games — and as such can be as fun and engaging as any other kind of creative activity. An advantage to coding is that you likely already have the equipment required to learn the basics — that is, a computer.
Creative hobbies are all about inspiration
Life can feel humdrum at times, especially if we’re stuck at home avoiding public gatherings and no longer commuting to work. This is where creative hobbies can make all the difference. They are designed to inspire and, as Munson says, “spark those creative juices.”
As author Tim Wu stated in an editorial on hobbies for the New York Times, “There is a real and pure joy, a sweet, childlike delight that comes from just learning and trying to get better.”
It’s indeed a great time for hobbies — what will you create?