At a recent dinner party, I threw out a simple question that had most of the guests stumped: “What’s your hobby?” Of the six people there only one could confidently answer that he had what could legitimately be considered a hobby. The rest of us used excuses that all sounded similar—I’m in a really busy season of life…I just have no time…I’ll have a hobby when I get older.
I’ve been thinking about this question since I read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way more than a year ago. I came to the realization that if I want to grow as a creative person, I couldn’t afford not to have a hobby. Cameron makes the case that we can’t expect creativity to pour out of us if we aren’t intentionally opening up ways to nurture the creative part of our soul. One of her tools for doing that is called the Artist Date—set aside two hours every week to take yourself on a date and do something you enjoy. What a luxury, right? As a working mom with two kids, I’m always complaining about not having enough time like this. And now someone was giving me permission to do it? Awesome. I was definitely willing to give it a try.
Except I had one little problem: I couldn’t think of anything that sounded fun enough. Sure, early on I took myself to a movie or went to the mall or to the fabric store, but none of those things were really filling my soul. Then I remembered one critical question Julia Cameron asked to help find something fun – what did I enjoy as a kid?
That’s when it hit me: I didn’t really do any of the things I enjoyed as a kid anymore and that made me sad. So I decided I would go back and try to recapture what little Angie knew about her creative soul (since grown-up Angie had forgotten it amongst deadlines, commitments and responsibilities).
A few weeks ago I tried out the forest preserve near my house for the first time. I rode my bike for over an hour, not quite able to contain the escaping giggles as I passed fields of wildflowers and ducks swimming in the creek. I felt such exhilaration and freedom – and my soul was nurtured. I also started playing my guitar more. I’m turning on music while I cook and singing at the top of my lungs. I’m saving up to buy a new lens for my camera.
I’m not doing these things just because I want to have fun, but because this type of creative nurturing is essential to the health of my soul. Without this, my ideas dry up and I end every day tired, wanting to collapse in front of the TV. But when I’m actively pursuing hobbies, I’m energized and see creative possibilities when others just see problems.
For me, it’s even become a type of spiritual discipline. It’s a way to admit my limitations as a human and trust God to fill me up. It reminds me that I can’t keep expecting to crank out creativity when I’m not resting or finding pleasure in my life. I prayed this Psalm when I was on my bike in the forest preserve because it reminds me of God’s heart for me – for all of us, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
What more permission do we need to get away by ourselves – with him – and have some fun?