I love running. I love writing. Family? That goes without saying. Work is an obligation which, for the most part, I don't mind.
What gets in the way, I'm learning to admit to myself, is that I also very much enjoy HBO, movies, naps, and doing not much of anything when I have a little bit of free time.
Merriam Webster offers two ironically divergent definitions of "Hobby":
1) : a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation
2) : a small Old World falcon (Falco subbuteo) that is dark blue above and white below with dark streaking on the breast
Isn't that just perfect? The former explanation defines how I think I should organize my free time; the latter is a stalker, dive-bombing victims who display weakness, and not making the most of their time alone in the open.
Running and writing manifest themselves as very similar challenges for me. Both are activities which I have trouble starting, I enjoy both more so once I've been at them for twenty minutes, and each fills me with unmatched feelings of accomplishment and pride once I've completed them.
As with many people, the hardest part of developing my hobbies is working at them - even for just a short while - on a regular basis. In Stephen King's non-fiction "On Writing", he says the most important key to becoming a writer is simply to write. Lock yourself in a room, unplug the television and the telephone, and just start doing it. It doesn't matter if your thoughts are disorganized, or the style isn't smooth; just set a minimum word or time limit. Whatever works for you. This sentiment is echoed by most writers: just write.
Similarly with running, or any exercise. Just workout for ten minutes, or five, or fifteen. As long as you tear yourself away from all those other distractions and begin working on your hobby; momentum will take care of itself. One running guru challenged people who claimed to not feel up to going for a jog: head out the door, and jog for ten minutes. If after that you're still not up to it, turn around and walk home. Just run.
The reason this advice works (if you follow it), is that while most of us do have busy lives, it is what we do with our free time which gets in the way of a rewarding hobby.
Yes, there are days, or perhaps an entire week, when I feel I simply don't have time to sit at the computer, or run up the block. But, I spend a fair bit of time lying to myself while watching Dexter, or a rerun of Die Hard 2.
I have a good friend who I refer to as a "Doer"; someone who does stuff. He never wants to sit in front of the TV. He never has an afternoon nap on a Sunday if the kitchen cupboards need painting or the vegetable garden needs more compost. People like that make me wonder if there's something wrong with me. But, I'm a very involved parent who shares in the housework, cooking, laundry, homework, and all the other household duties. But so is The Doer. Is it so bad if at the end of the day I watch Dustin Hoffman's "Marathon Man" instead becoming one myself?
I guess the real test is how often my couch-potatoness gets in the way of developing my hobbies, and how much importance I place on writing or running. As any motivational speaker/life coach would tell me: when it's important enough, I'll make the time.
For me, I know momentum is key. Once I get into the habit of strapping on my joggers three or four times a week, I can't allow more than a week to go by without running. If I do, I then give myself permission to eat more chips, to put off exercise for 'just one more day', or to 'start up again tomorrow instead of tonight...it's been a long week, I just want to relax.'
Similarly with writing. I promised myself when I started this blog I would post once a week, with designs on increasing that to twice or more when I became comfortable with the interface and format. It worked for a while. Then, one week I gave myself permission to miss an entry; we were away on holiday. 'Doesn't everyone deserve a holiday?' I asked myself. Then it became: 'The kids are starting school' followed by 'A busy week at work.' Lo and behold, I was down to once a month.
What's maddening is: the answer is so simple. Just do it. Turn off the TV, don't read the sports section. When I'm at work with time on my hands, I should write a little - even if it's just a paragraph; I can always come back to it later. After all, isn't that one of the luxuries of blogging? Your work sits in cyberspace, accessible from anywhere on the planet. I should set an alarm and run a little - even just for fifteen minutes. It's still fifteen more minutes than the nothing I was doing fifteen minutes ago. Why isn't the sense of accomplishment I get after doing these things be enough to motivate me for the next session?
Of course, plunking my butt on the couch doesn't involve an hour of spell-checking, or showering and re-hydrating, or sore muscles. But it also provides me with no inspiration or feeling of accomplishment.
Hobbies can do wonders for a busy parent. They can be especially useful for one who feels they've lost themselves in the act of running a household full of kids. They can help you find yourself, and provide you with an identity outside your obligations to other people.
Then again, if I wasn't running after my kids, what would I write about?
Hmmmm...Finding inspiration in a life filled with chaos. That's a great idea for a blog post. I think I'll write about that next week...or next month...or maybe just after the Christmas rush.