What does having a hobby feel like?

A new year, a new effort to build good habits. Or, at least, to build habits and then hope that they turn out well.

I considered opening this post with a “How was your holiday, everyone?” or a “Happy new year, everyone” – but while I am interested in the answer to the question and legitimately do wish a happy new year to all of humanity at present (god knows we could all USE it), I don’t quite feel right saying that here. It’s the “everyone” that is the sticking point; I shall be exceedingly surprised if anyone other than a bot looking for an opportunity to monetize things ever turns up here.

(I imagine them arriving, an armful of malware links and broken English piled into a briefcase just that bit too plastic in its newness. An unsettling leer precariously balanced somewhere between a car-upholstery-patterned suit and the sort of hat lesser movie villains might have worn in the 1940s. Ringing the bell and, on having no answer, almost doubling over to peer into the window, all that uncanny length and angle contorting. It dismays them to be chased off by the watchdog, the spam-catcher, but they are, over and over again, in a flurry of loud and ferocious barking. The leer never wavers, though, not even as they withdraw and drift to the next house.)

All the same, here I am, taking up the effort to undertake a small expressive practice, most days. The latest villain in this, ironically, has been the effort to exercise for at least half an hour, most days; success there has thus far meant failure here, and vice versa.

Is a single hour of the day in an adult life so impossible? Half an hour for the body, half an hour for the mind; how is that so difficult to maintain?

Yesterday I read What Having A Hobby Feels Like, which is quite the mood on a number of levels. One of the many facets of our Boring Cyberpunk Dystopia: the idea that there may be people, a lot of people even, who either legitimately cannot identify interests to pursue or who have lost the knack of pursuing them without feeling the additional need to monetize them. Another: how incredibly difficult it is to actually start anything new, especially with all of the algorithms competing for our attention, uncaring whether that attention is legitimate interest, fury, or just…filling time.

I cannot decide whether or not it is ironic that an article about the difficulty of finding and keeping hobbies is on Substack, where a number of people who express themselves in long-form writing like this gate their thoughts and ideas behind paywalls. Factor in the recent letter from the president of Square Enix that appears to be trying to justify the incursion of capitalism into every free moment with baffling suggestions like “people will create more things if we offer them incentives to create!” and I begin to wonder if I am going mad, or just getting old. (Old enough to remember a version of the internet that felt less like corporations inserting themselves between me and…everything else in the world.)

I have always believed that a creative person’s need to create is elemental. That creating things is a thing they just…need to do, in the same way that a husky needs lots of vigorous exercise every day. That it just IS, whether or not one is getting paid, whether or not one becomes famous, whether or not one changes the world or builds a career. Being able to convert that energy into a career is certainly amazing, and lots of us would love to, but even if that isn’t possible, one would still need to make something. It is a truth.

On occasion I have flattered myself that one reason I might be feeling a malaise (vague, or not so vague, or sharp and keen and cutting) is that I am one of these creative people, and that the habit everyday life has of rushing in to fill every nook and cranny in the spacetime continuum with grocery lists and laundry and spreadsheets and doomscrolling and maybe, on a good night, a little old-fashioned escapism means I do not get that exercise, doing the human equivalent of sprawling on the hallway carpet looking longingly at the door.

Capital already gets a decent chunk of my days. It has the money, and so I exchange some time for the resources I need in order to live. Outside those hours I would appreciate it if it would kindly fuck right off.

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