On picking hobbies (Part 1)

Late last year I embarked on a quest to find the ultimate hobby. After rapidly exhausting the options that came to mind, I decided to formulate a system to pick a winner. Here is what I was up to…

I wanted to develop a hobby because people do extra-ordinary things outside of work, some programmers write open source code, others sail across the atlantic… the possibilities are immense. But, you cant just pick something… anything. You need a system You need to start by understanding what a hobby is.

Let’s start by defining the term hobby:

Taken from wikipedia – A hobby is a regularly undertaken activity that is done for pleasure, typically, during one’s leisure time. 

Oxford Dictionary: hobby an activity that you do for pleasure in your spare time

The keywords here are ‘regularly’, ‘spare time’. This actually makes it easy to test and experiment with the candidates. Will I be able to do them in regularity? Will I want to use my spare time doing this? and finally, What will be the impact of that activity on my life? Will it for eg. make me a recluse? (i’m not saying this is a problem btw)

So, I created a short list of stuff I would consider doing. Things like playing sports and collecting stuff never made it to the list. The list was actually, short. 1) Photography, 2) Movies, 3) Reading, 4) Writing, 5) Learning.

Next, I went through these one by one to decide why they would or would not be… my ultimate hobby.

1) Photography:

My take on it: Well, photography lost before I even seriously considered it. This is a time specific skill. You have to be in the moment, have the right camera, the right lighting… its science and art. I love it, but maybe my skills are a little too ad-hoc to really take this on.

My ADHD brain would never be satisfied perfecting this one skill.


The Tests:

Regularity – No. To take pictures I would want to keep, I would have to travel. I do not see a major change in lifestyle happening anytime soon.

Spare time – No. I wouldn’t feel involved.

Score 0/2

2) Movies:

My take on it: Ah! Movies. The perfect choice? For hours on end I can easily be lost in a mysterious world. And some movies, I could watch again and again. Do not question me as to why I watched ‘Dan in Real Life’, ‘Garden State’, ‘Jerry Maguire” and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ over 20 times. It’s not that these are perfect movies, far from it. Iconic movies may have a line of dialogue, a scene, maybe even a motif that sticks in you mind. This stickyness is probably why so many people like ‘The Godfather’ when I really didn’t get into it… but I digress. While these movies I watched and searched for were by no means perfect, they were right for me.


But in my opinion… movies are an impersonal artform. Watching movies is no hobby just as watching sports isn’t. Apart from eating popcorn and sipping a diet coke, what are you really doing? Stimulating the mind? Eh…

See, for a hobby to be a legitimate and worthy of my spare time… I need to immerse myself in it. I would want to make my own movies, learn about the history of film and find out what technicolor actually means.  But if I simply watch a movie but do not contribute to the art form in any way, what is the point?

The Tests:

Regularity: No – I eventually get around to watching the top rated movies on imdb. The most recent movie I watched however was… ‘The Avengers’, so I may be a little behind

Spare TIme: Yes/No.. I dont know! I can easily spend time on this. I may not want to because I don’t want to just absorb stories and never create anything… but I can surely kill time on movies.

Score 0.5/2

3) Reading:

My take on it: This is a difficult choice. A brainless one on first look, but tricky.

Sometimes, I read a lot and other times, for long periods, I don’t read anything. I read over 24 books within the scope of 3 months between April and June this year. So there, we have a winner right? Let’s pack up and go home… but- wait. Why do I go extended periods without reading?

Let’s start by seeing what I was reading… the books includedincluded- ‘The Autograph Man’, ‘White Teeth’, ‘Rumo’, ‘Blackberry Wine’, ‘Chocolat,’ ‘Mortal Engines’, ‘In the Plex’, ‘The Google way’, ‘Oryx and Crake’, ‘The Blind Assassin’… among others. While reading, I follow my instinct in picking up books. Some were old favourites, others were award winning novels picked solely because of accolades like ‘Booker prize shortlist’ or ‘#1 New York Times Bestseller’… Do not judge a book by the cover they said, but I am usually fooled by marketing and tempted by award winning authors. I do not know what I think this will do… elevate my level of prose? That is after all why i read don’t I? So I may eventually write better.


Reading as a hobby then, was by far the biggest success. Though it is true that far too many of the books I read this past summer were in fact re-reads… returning to these books after a gap of 1-2 years was like being reacquainted to an old friend. I knew what was coming, but I was surprised and shocked nonetheless. In some cases, like in ‘White Teeth’, the reread meant I enjoyed and understood the novel better. Surely this is the hobby that would win! Here I could uncover the various layers within a book, later research the author and join forums and newsgroups and read what others were talking about. I could contribute to that discussion and I write my own reviews.

I do feel like we have somehow de-romanticized reading by replacing books with kindles. While a kindle may hold many many books and may be a blessing for those who (like me) are separated from their library for extended periods of time… a kindle also makes you miss out on the smell of paper, the hunt for a book in a store and visiting libraries to discover popular books on account of them being the most heavily borrowed. No, the Kindle has simplified all of that…

Okay, back to the point… Reading will not do either I am afraid. My ADHD like desire to read so many things and the (please excuse the use of the acronym) FOMO (fear of missing out) with social media meant I abandon books that do not hold my attention. The book has to earn my time… even my spare time!

The Tests:

Regularity: No.

Spare Time- No. Books really have to fight for my attention.

Score: 0/2 (Surprisingly Zero!)

this concludes part 1 of this post.  I will discuss writing and Learning in part 2….

To be continued.


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