Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hobby Burn-Out: How To Cope

When my cousin was born in 1992, she had a congenital heart defect and needed surgery when she was only two days old. My aunt and uncle were distraught as they had no warning that anything may be wrong with the baby. During the weeks when she was in the hospital after her surgery, my aunt and uncle had very different ways of dealing with the stress.

My aunt pretty much stayed with their child, deciding how she would deal with the aftermath of the surgery. She passed the time with her friends and relatives but stayed close. My uncle, like many men, needed to get away. He had always enjoyed woodworking, so he took up the hobby as a way to keep himself busy. And boy did he take it up! He got new tools and made all kinds of nifty wooden items from benches to china cabinets to dollhouses. He needed something to do with his hands.

Once their baby got out of the hospital, he had built up quite the collection of woodworking items that he had made. Since the bills had started coming in for the surgery, they started looking at ways they would pay for everything. My aunt suggested selling some of the pieces he had made. He agreed, and they sold quickly. Then my aunt started taking order from people with pictures of what he could make. He started working in the room they had converted to a shop night and day making everything people ordered. After about a year, he had to cut things back because he was exhausted and did not really appreciate the woodworking anymore. After all, it started as a hobby.

Many people find themselves in situations like my uncle discovered with his woodworking. A hobby can take on a life of its own, especially if it is something that other people enjoy. While he was being paid for its efforts, the expected output took a toll on the joy he should have gotten from the hobby.

Perhaps you have found yourself in this situation and are unsure what to do. While you may not want to disappoint others, you want to enjoy whatever hobby it is you had taken up. Your first step is to re-evaluate what you want out of the hobby. Perhaps you want to sell a few pieces here and there but do not want to make a full-time income. Chances are that you may even have been pulled in directions that you do not enjoy. You may have wanted to play a little jazz here and there but find you are being asked to perform other types of music less to your liking. Knowing what you want to get out of your hobby will help you to cut back.

You should fulfill all of your current obligations but be clear that you are not taking on anything new. You can tell people anything you would like. Say that you want to spend more time at home or that you need a break. You should not let others guilt you into continuing to work on projects that make your hobby less fun. If you have trouble turning others down, then have someone else field the calls for you.

Take a few weeks off from your hobby once you get through meeting all of the promises you have made. Just take some time to relax. Do not break out the equipment for your hobby for at least two weeks. That way when you do get back into the swing of things, you will be able to do so with a new fervor.

During your two-week respite, take some time to check out new things in your hobby area. If you do knitting, you may want to look at trying a type of sweater you have not made before. Artists may want to work with a new technique using that new set of brushes down at the art store. Take on something fun and new with your hobby if you would like.

Just remember that the next time you start getting hounded to provide for others using your talents that you should think about how much you want to do before agreeing to do anything.

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