I recently spoke to my biggest hater about this blog.
Me: I guess when I started a personal blog as a hobby, I would’ve been elated with the readership it has now, but its growth has slowed and sometimes I feel like I’m doing something wrong.
Mom: It’s probably the content.
Mom: So anyway, about this cake I made—
Yes, I insinuated my mom is my biggest hater, and yes, I’m kidding. She’s a pretty small woman.
But seriously, I think we have a lot of misconceptions about what hobbies should be, and these expectations generate significant anxiety when you’re thinking about how to find a hobby or assessing whether what you like to do is “good” or “useful” enough. So let me rectify as many as I can.
You’re not alone.
A couple months ago, I confided in my roommate that I felt directionless. It seemed like everyone around me had their ThingTM, i.e. their One True Guiding Passion, and they were generally on track to achieve their goals. Yes, they had failures but in hindsight the dots all connected to progress them further toward life fulfillment. They held hobbies that in some way advanced this core purpose, or at least had some side hustle to occupy their free time.
I used to hear the trite “Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day” and hope that if I just waited until that magical discovery, everything thereafter would be okay. But are there others who feel like they just… won’t ever have any driving interests or hobbies? Turns out, yes, and they feel alienated, too.
Person: I don’t have anything I’m good at. I don’t have any hobbies.
Person: I don’t even have any agency as I’m not a real person but a mere device for you to make a point.
Okay, so no one directly confided in me. I’d actually found the kindred spirits when creeping online. I turned to the Indian nation of Quora—as I do in moments of weakness, until I read 39 anecdotal answers from wannabe motivational speakers and become more frustrated than I am self-pitying. I had typed, among other phrases, “how to find a hobby” “I have no hobbies” “I’m not good at anything.” I found millions of results.
You definitely have interests.
I know I just said I hadn’t felt like I had natural inclinations, but I was wrong back then. It’d actually be a feat for you not to have interests, which are based on preferences that each of us naturally has. (Feeling a lack of interest in anything is a symptom of depression, which you should address before or at least concurrently with the symptom of having no hobbies.)
The idea that everyone has a calling to which all interests should align is baked into culture. Even in China, there’s this tradition called “zhua zhou” on a child’s first birthday. Parents place a bunch of items, like books and calculators, in front of the kid for him to “pick” his destiny and future talents.
My problem was I just didn’t think my interests were good or innate enough, in many respects. Which brings me to the next point:
You should assess your motivations.
Why’re you asking how to find a hobby? What actually makes you feel inadequate about not thinking you have one?
For me, my motivations were all external. I said I wanted a hobby so I could feel fulfilled and happy, but it turns out my happiness is still inevitably tied to how other people perceive me.
Me: I say I love writing but actually a lot of the time it makes me want to pull out my hair. What I wholeheartedly enjoy is spending time with friends, but that doesn’t qualify as a hobby.
Friend: Why not?
Me: I know a hobby’s supposed to just be something you enjoy, but you know that when someone asks you what your hobbies are, that’s not an answer. It’s not productive, for one, nor does it convey personality.
Because that’s really what it really was. What I really wanted was to be good at something, and whether I liked it or not, “good at something” really means “better at something than other people and validated for it.”
You’re not going to force it, but you can do something.
This is going to sound annoying, but only you can decide whether something is really your hobby or passion because only you know if it fulfills you. Mark Manson of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, in fact, argues that you’ve already found your hobby and you’re just ignoring it. But regardless of whether you agree, trying to monetize an interest you’re starting to explore—especially immediately, when you’re not yet secure in it—is a surefire way to kill it dead.
For example, I’ve been thinking (which, as you know, is difficult for me) about the direction of Nicole Sundays. I know that to create more “in demand” content, I could make like bloggers who teach other aspiring bloggers how to increase their followings. (Which is a pyramid scheme rivaling the pipeline of English majors to English teachers if I’ve ever heard one.) It’s a perfectly acceptable niche to enter if you’re passionate about it. But if you’re not, you have to imagine both likely outcomes—operating more like a business and generating user-focused content or doing whatever you want to an audience that might not exist—and be okay with either.
I read so many other “how to find a hobby” articles online as research so you didn’t have to, and the majority restate these steps: 1) list what you’re good at, 2) figure out what you like, and 3) do that.
While I don’t know that that advice has helped anyone, on some levels, the process is that simple. Even if what you enjoy is watching Netflix all day, do you find yourself discussing particular shows or aspects a lot with friends? Could you translate that interest into a hobby like commentary/analysis, for example?
Whatever you try, just make sure that you settle on something that challenges you so you can enjoy it long-term. And community is key—research shows that you savor an experience more when it’s shared.
So, how to find a hobby? It starts with questions and introspection. But if you’re stumped, for inspiration, get your mom to tell you what to do and you may find sudden enjoyment in doing the opposite. Or, actually, do you happen to relish complaining and having other people listen to you?
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