As someone who lives in a “lifestyle town” (a term I only recently learned, connoting a place where people move for the quality of life), I love talking to other people about what they do when they’re not working. Some people work all the time. Some people’s hobbies are pretty standard: movies, eating out. Some people have really esoteric hobbies: Buddhist archery, or food sculpture. Here’s some advice from me: when you work in a fast-paced, deadline-driven, word-centered job, you need some non-work interests that are a) slow, and b) wordless. This will help preserve your sanity and avoid burnout. Both are important if you want to stick with freelancing for the foreseeable future!
Slow hobbies have really exploded in popularity, at least in the US. Slow hobbies–knitting, weaving, embroidery, crocheting and so on–are now kind of a hipster thing, instead of a granny thing. I’m an avid knitter, and when I would knit back in college in the 90s, knitting was largely seen as a nursing home pastime. Whereas now when I visit the fancy knitting store in Boulder, I’m sometimes the oldest person in there (at age 45), or the only one without purple highlights in my hair. Knitting has progressed from toilet paper covers to bikinis, and cell phone covers, and even craftivism, a newly-coined term for political activism through crafting. My daughter and I volunteer at our local animal shelter (another slow hobby!) with a woman who runs crafting retreats as a job. Her theory, which I’m inclined to believe, is that as the rest of life gets faster, people want to spend their free time doing something slower. For us translators, I definitely recommend it!
Here’s the thing: in our jobs, one of the main questions we deal with is, “How fast can this be done?” We get that message from clients. We wonder it about learning a new piece of software, or setting up a website. How fast can I finish this? The content management system Squarespace even uses the slogan, “Create your own website in minutes!” There’s lots of “in minutes” out there. By contrast, here’s a sock I just finished knitting. I’d estimate that it took me about 8 or 10 hours:
So, no “minutes” here: 8 or 10 hours of hanging out and knitting. Personally I find that knitting helps me relax and focus. By nature I’m an antsy, impatient person; I talk too fast, I read too fast, and I’m always eager to move on to the next thing. So when I get together with friends and want to just sit and talk (or even on conference calls), I often knit at the same time. Knitting has the added bonus of occupying your hands, so that you physically cannot check your phone or browse a mindless website. Like this (photo from Cris Silva at Colorado Translators Association coffee time!)
Playing the lute is an even slower hobby for me. After three years, I’m not the worst lute player you’ve ever heard, but I’ve barely (even with daily practice) progressed beyond what most people would consider the beginner level. On a good day, maybe advanced beginner. But slow progress is there. My rolled chords are starting to sound a little more like rolled chords than like arpeggios (string musicians will get that one!), and I play in a little group that brings me a lot of joy. And to me, the fact that learning to play an instrument is not an “in minutes” process is part of that joy: the joy of creating something that can’t be created in minutes, but rather takes hours/years of dedication to create.
And a word about wordless: at least for me, sometimes at the end of the day I’ve just had it with words. I love my job, but I rarely read an entire book unless we’re on vacation. I read the New Yorker in bed sometimes, but I also think it’s important to give your brain a break from words and use it in a different way. Music, sports, art, crafting, are all great ways to do that.
If you need some added inspiration, here’s a dragonfly pendant that my daughter and I crafted for her bike team Secret Santa. It’s strung on an eye pin, and the ‘wings’ are a link from a broken bike chain, combined with two wood beads for the head and body, and seaglass beads for the tail. Dab some super glue on the chain links so that they remain in flying position!