One thing that I’ve noticed about myself is that, from time to time, I will obsess about things. And not just anything—new things coming into my life. My attention laser focuses in on one specific item, and it’s usually something related to creativity or a pastime that I’d like to spend more time and energy on pursuing.
The first example that comes to mind is when I moved back to Indiana and I got back into music. I felt the need to replace my old instrument from high school with a new instrument that really suited me; something to embody my dedication to my life outside of my 9-to-5. After a few months of intensive research, I ended up with a gorgeous instrument that suited me perfectly. I say research, but it was really a lot of reading, YouTubing, late night calls and texts with family and friends, and a significant amount of time spent with my budget spreadsheet. Absolutely worth the effort and the money for the joy my flute has brought in the last few years.
The second example that comes to mind really came to pass at the start of the global pandemic. Over the year preceding it, I’d been really getting into knitting and crochet. But yet, I wanted to take it to the next level and make my own yarn. After yet more research, budget rationalization, and discussion with friends, I took the plunge and invested in a Kiwi 3 spinning wheel that has made yards and yards of gorgeous, soft yarn for myself and friends. And, as an added bonus, it’s a conversation started during awkward Zoom calls as it sits in the background of my webcam’s frame! “You do what with huh?” is not an uncommon response!/
As I began to get more involved in the spinning and knitting communities, the third example obsession came to pass. I realized the fabrics that were catching my eye were woven and not knit. At first, as an excuse to have an outlet for all the yarn I was spinning and had collected over the last few years, I bought myself a rigid heddle loom (the “beginner’s loom” or, more appropriately, the “gateway drug”) as a birthday present to myself. Weaving definitely hit a lot of the same sanity-saving points that yoga used to in the before-times. I had tasted blood and I wanted more.
Yet again, rationalizing this purchase involved a significant amount of external digestion of thought and process with those close to me (virtually, anyway—remember, global panini). This time, my rationalization involved starting a side hustle! After dozens of hours of research, a business plan, an Etsy storefront creation, and side skills learned, I was the proud papa of a loom and had my eyes set on a side hustle to boot! Two months after I brought home my rigid heddle loom (Frederick is his name, for the record), I was assembling a full-on 8-shaft floor loom—the Louet David 2.
However, while doing all the research around this side hustle and how to properly market oneself, I started getting the idea that I needed a website, or a blog, or a vlog, or something that would let me put my voice out into the world. At first, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how to do it. Eventually I decided that I should get a domain and host my own site based in WordPress (that’s how this blog you’re reading right now came to exist, in case you were wondering), but I was struggling to figure out how to get into the right headspace for content creation.
While working through this I concluded that a computer that didn’t have as many distractions popping up at me as my MacBook Pro or my iPads might help. As someone who uses Windows PCs for that aforementioned 9-to-5, I vehemently refuse to use them in my personal life as much as possible. The cuteness of the 12” MacBook (circa 2015-2017) immediately caught the eye of the obsession monster that lurks in my brain. YouTube fed that obsession happily—one Google search resulted in dozens of suggested videos popping up every time I opened the app. One may be on its way to my doorstep sometime in the next few days… Okay, yeah, one is. I caved.
In the end, it all boils down to this strange self-talk I give myself, I think. You should invest in tools that will help you do the things you want to do more easily, enjoyably, and effectively. All the things that I obsess about lead me to new heights of self-expression, creation, and enjoying different aspects of my life. These obsessions tend to arise at particularly stressful times. While correlation does not equal causation, I think it may just be my brain’s way of keeping the balance between convergent and divergent thought; between the left and the right lobes; between creativity and calculation.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
But what if your play is just someone else’s form of work, as a hobby? As a form of self-expression? Is it still work, or does that count as play?