Finding a New Hobby When I Wasn’t Looking
I have been writing since I could form letters. My first “book” was entitled The Adventures of Cuddles the Cat and was a slight variation of a book borrowed from the library, complete with pictures and a copyright date. I was five.
As I grew older, I delved into journaling and churning out papers for school that would always impress my teachers. I wrote bad poetry and would type out the beginnings of stories on an old typewriter that my parents had, which later was replaced with a box-shaped word processor on which I could store my writings on a disk (and now forever lost).
After graduating from college with an English degree, my writing was stunted for a long time when I entered the working world. I spent several years traveling for work, finding myself so exhausted at the end of the day that I could only collapse onto the bed in my hotel room in the evenings. I did some technical writing and product fliers for my employer and it was enough to satisfy my need to create something.
It wasn’t until my son was born in 2009 that I really fell back into writing, starting a blog in which I wrote every few days about the adventures and misadventures of parenting. My second son was born in 2012, and I kept writing. I still maintain a blog to this day, albeit of a different theme than I had originally embarked upon.
However, in all of the years of writing, my goal was to always write for an audience. Perhaps not so much my journals, but in writing essays for a class, technical documentation, or a blog — there was always the intent that someone would read this work. I would often spend time crafting the narrative around an incident with my toddler, hoping that the reader would smile or laugh. My current blog has a purpose to raise awareness and evoke emotion.
In January of this year, I started painting. Watercolors. Originally, I was only looking to improve some basic skills so that I could help my son, who had taken an interest in watercolor tutorials on YouTube. A friend helped me with some techniques via Skype.
The next day, I painted again. And the next day. Every day or two, I was producing a little 5x7 painting, trying something different, and sending messages to my friend asking for help when I got stuck.
I bought more brushes — better brushes. Smaller brushes for more detail work. Better paper that could hold the weight of the water. Other little supplies that I could work with to create effects that I wanted to explore.
I began perusing Instagram for inspiration and videos of other watercolor artists. I formed a file of pictures that I could refer to. My little writing desk became overtaken with my painting efforts.
Nearly every morning, I would wake naturally at around 5:15 am, grab my coffee and sit at my desk and work on something until the rest of the house stirs sometime after 6:00 am. Since January 16th, I have created 19 paintings.
My husband asked how many hours of effort I have put in so far. Guessing at maybe 1.5–2 hours per painting, I said “Maybe 30 hours?” He told me that I only have 9,970 more hours to become an expert, under the theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. At the rate that I am going, with maybe an hour per day. this will take me more than 27 years….
But the thing is, I don’t want to become an expert. I don’t have any desire to push my work out into the world, other than for fun. I post my paintings to Instagram (@creativeyangout) but more for my own reflections on improvement.
Whereas writing has always been “for a purpose,” painting is truly for my own enjoyment and the satisfaction of creating.
I derive so much pleasure from the time spent at my desk with my watercolors. Living in the Midwest in winter means that it is dark outside when I begin painting in the morning, silent and still. I listen to an audiobook while I work.
Watercolors involve a lot of “waiting” for paint to dry before adding another layer or deciding if the look achieved what I wanted. Sometimes I will start on a painting in the morning and then — because I work from home — swivel back to the painting during the day to fix something that I do not like after it dries. I am learning more control over the outcome.
It now seems bizarre to me that I only started this about three weeks ago. But it has truly become a hobby, in a way that I am not sure I have ever really embraced a hobby before. Painting relaxes me, but also gives me a strong sense of satisfaction when I have finished working on something. It has awakened a creativity that I always felt I had, but had never before figured out how to express.