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Looking for a hobby, eh?

This is less about tech and more about the time you're not at a keyboard (what?!  You mean there is life away from the computer?)

Let's say that you're a software engineer and you find yourself with a copious amount of free time (ha!) and you're looking for a way to fill that time that is productive, entertaining, stimulating, and so on.  I've been in this position time and again and when I find myself surfing the web too much, it's usually a sign that I need something constructive to do (although in reality, I should sand down those spackle patches I did last fall).

The web is a time suck, and what's worse it's a passive time suck.  You're mostly consuming the work of other people.  Instead, I suggest that you actually do something instead.  Reclaim your time and work with your hands or mind to make something.  Document it if you like and share it if you're so inclined.

Hobbies I've engaged in that have worked well with my personality:
  • Woodworking
  • Music
  • Sewing1
  • Gardening
  • Model building
  • Arranging
  • Jogging
  • Scrabble™
  • Fishing
  • Electronics
  • Tinkering
  • Animation
  • Yoga
  • Zymurgy
Many of these hobbies share a commonality with writing software
 and some of them are just plain different.  Remember that we are definied not only by our depth, but also by our breadth.  By studying subject matter that is both pertinent and orthogonal to your career, you are improving the way that you do your work both directly and indirectly.  One could argue that fishing provides no gain to software, but I've found that the meditative quiet of an early morning at a pond or lake is precisely the kind of environment for solving hard problems by not thinking about them.

Writing software can lead to a narrow personlity or a narrow, very Boolean outlook to the world and to life.  There is a time and a place for this kind of thinking, and it's not every minute of every day.  Be open to other roads. My friend Dan's is making a personal airship.  This is no longer a hobby.

1Sewing is an oddball hobby to list, at least if you conform to "normal" societal gender roles2, but honestly it is identical to woodworking.  No, really.  There's a standard long-running myth about 3D visualization being associated with boys and not girls.  Let me tell you that some of the transforms necessary to make a lined vest are way harder than those for most woodworking projects.  I see it this way, both involve selecting raw materials that need to be cut, matched, trimmed, joined and assembled with a fair degree of attention to detail.  Both involve a fair number of tricks to make certain tasks easier.  The equipment for sewing is way cheaper, quieter and takes up way less space.  I encourage you to take a class.  My 7th grade art teacher taught us all how to use sewing machines and to embroider in order to make soft sculpture. I'm grateful for the breadth.

2Although the area I'm living in is currently very gender-flexible, I've lived in an area where I've gotten some of the oddest looks for wandering around a fabric store looking for just the right print.  It's surmountable.
Published Wednesday, March 29, 2006 3:22 PM by Steve Hawley


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