Recently, a friend posted on his Facebook that he would like to learn calligraphy, spoken word, horse back riding, and photography. You can see his profile by using facebook view as a friend. Although there is no harm in aiming high, we need to prioritize our interests and take baby steps. On the same note, I had the pleasure to speak to three hobbyists and how they went from curiosity to interests, and finally a hobby (and into a business for some!)
My interviewees were:
- Jenna Evans of Bookmarks For a Cause
- Sobia Hussain of The Olive Tree Soap Company
- Mezba Mahtab of Teaching Kids the Holy Qur’an (using Lego)
What does “productive hobby” mean to you?
A productive hobby goes beyond just an interest to result in tangible benefits such as education, money, fitness, relationships or charity. There is no doubt that a person who turns his/her hobby into a business, devotes his/her time to volunteer work, or creates items that educate and inspire others is more productive than one whose hobby is never shared with the world.
For example, if you love swimming, it’s good for your health. You can even go one step further and conduct a swim-a-thon to raise money for a charity that is very near and dear to your heart! Basically, to me, a productive hobby helps put a smile on someone’s face and makes a difference in their lives… no matter how small your contribution may be!
I don’t classify hobbies as productive or unproductive. It is meant for myself alone. If I happen to help other people with it, as is the case with my Lego Qur’an blog, then it is an additional bonus. This also explains why there is sometimes such a lag between my blog posts. Sometimes I just don’t feel the creative urge or the need to build, so I just don’t. I do it mainly for myself.
We all have a number of interests. Should we devote our time and energy to all or pick and choose? What factors should one keep in mind when picking a hobby?
Before starting Bookmarks For a Cause, I had several “business” ideas, but the majority were not feasible because of time, cost, or my lack of knowledge and skill. Designing and making bookmarks by hand was something I knew I could master with practice. The cost of materials was reasonable, and the bookmark’s focus was on education, inspiration, and helping others.
So the potential to make a (small) difference was clear. I had no idea if anyone would be interested in them, much less want to buy them, but that was not what drove me. I just had to try it and see what happens.
If you want to pick a hobby, find something that you really enjoy doing and see yourself doing for years to come, In sha Allah.
The main factor in picking a hobby is of course avoiding it if the hobby is harmful. Some people like to drink or gamble as a “hobby” – clearly that is not desired from just a common sense perspective. Other people like to backbite or engage in other immoral activities.
You should pick a hobby that provides you with mental and physical benefits and makes you a better person. It is something mainly for you, and if it helps another person, that’s even better. Just one more caveat, it should not interfere with your regular work and duties to the extent that it’s no longer a hobby.
Would you share some practical tips for someone to turn their interest into a hobby?
Show and tell. If you don’t share your hobby with others, you will not reap the full benefits of having a hobby. By talking about your hobby and sharing your creations, you may find someone who shares the same or similar interest and wants to participate with you.
If you have an interest, give it a try! You will never know if you really like doing something unless you try it out first. It’s better to have more “oh well’s” than “what if’s”.
Also, get a little obsessed about your new-found hobby. Learn everything you can about it. Read about it, watch videos, attend classes and workshops, and if you can, find a mentor who can guide you in the field. Learn to look at your hobby from all possible angles and see how you can grow with it and expand on it.
Keep the intention pure and Islamic. If you pick a physical activity, do it to follow the sunnah of keeping yourself physically fit. If you have a lot of intelligence, try learning a language or educating yourself about Islamic history. If you are into crafts, try to think of how it can help you become a better person (if you keep yourself mentally charged and fresh, your behaviour towards others will be better).
Time is of an essence. When you’re so busy with school / work / family, etc, how does one carve out time for a hobby?
Have a realistic plan. If making time on a daily or weekly basis is not feasible, carve out time for your hobby on a monthly or quarterly basis.
My family and my duties as a Muslim are priority. I ensure that everyone is taken care of and all of my duties are taken care of before I embark my personal hobbies. It just feels better that way. Guilt-free. Then, I suppose, I end up finding time for something that really matters to me. In my case, that would be my soap-making.
I have to say if you love doing it, you will carve out time. And if your loved ones are understanding (as my wife is), even better!
What if I don’t have the state of the art tools / equipment / material?
Work with what you do have. Do not use that as an excuse because you will never get started. In fact, not having the right tools or materials can actually feed your creativity. It will force you to think outside the box and potentially come up with unique solutions that make your hobby more fun or enhance the value of your product or service.
Don’t let that stop you. Sometimes, professional tools are costly and that may be discouraging. Don’t fret. Do with what you have and what you can afford. Personally, I like to start with the absolute basics. When I get the feel of the craft and want to explore further, then I’ll consider buying other specialty tools and materials.
You don’t need state of the art tools or equipment, but obviously you need to get the best you can comfortably afford. For me (and both Lego and photography is expensive!), it means knowing my limits, and being creative with what I have.
How can I learn, perfect, improve at my hobby?
First, keep working on it. You will naturally get better over time. My first batch of bookmarks look almost nothing like the ones I now create. It was a learning process during which my bookmarks became more professional-looking and more eye-catching. Second, seek out others who are doing something similar for comparison purposes.
When I want to learn a new skill, I like to go to the library first. I’ll bring home many books of different styles and simply study the craft. I’ll learn the terminology and techniques theoretically. When I get comfortable with the concepts, I’ll move into trying them out. In this world of info-sharing overload on the internet, you can find pretty much anything you are looking for. So, I’ll also look it up on Pinterest and YouTube as well.
I can give examples from my own hobbies.
- For photography, I attended a photography class and subscribe to e-magazines that talk about DSLR techniques etc.
- For Lego, I subscribe to websites and Twitter accounts that promote Lego sales/deals etc. There are also websites that showcase what Lego Adult Fans have made, so I get to learn from their creativity and get inspired.
- Find fellow practitioners of your hobby so you can get better. I look for people who play volleyball and badminton so I can improve myself.
What keeps you motivated and inspired at your hobby?
My two hobbies are writing and making bookmarks. There are two things that keep me motivated and inspired:
- Both these hobbies have the potential to touch another person’s life in a positive way.
- I have received positive feedback from friends, family, and strangers.
When you do things for others as opposed to yourself, it is a lot easier to maintain motivation.
I always carry a small notebook and pen with me at all times because I draw inspiration from my surroundings: nature, life, family and so on. Sometimes, an inspiration will hit me in the oddest moment, so I’ll just grab my notebook, then sketch or write it down. Also, when I see a finished product, that is enough motivation for me. If I feel satisfied with what I’ve created, I’m ready to try some more! Positive feedback is also a sure way to keep you going.
My “fans” :-) People commenting on the Lego blog or emailing me. As for other hobbies, it’s just a personal satisfaction.
Check out Jenna’s, Sobia’s and Mezba’s Facebook pages to know more about their hobbies. I hope their stories will encourage and inspire you develop an interest to become a hobby that will allow you to grow as a person, and even better, benefit others! Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the Comments section below!