Less side-hustles, more hobbies please


This summer I rediscovered my love of literary criticism. As well as my regular non-fiction reading and before-bed reading of novels, I read plenty of essays and speculative pieces that were as far away as you can possibly imagine to the kind of knowledge I could ‘monetise’.

In a Timeline article by Stephanie Buck entitled Our parents discovered leisure. We killed it., the author argues that our kind of middle-class work/life blurring is far removed from what previous generations did:

Instead of viewing work as the inevitable grind and hobbies as core to one’s identity, as in the post-war era, today’s professionals strive to equate career with leisure. A Quartz piece published this month calls this new phenomenon “the journey of duality,” as if Gwyneth Paltrow coined a new way to say “working two jobs.” Phyllis Korkki writes, “The secret to a side hustle for the soul is to believe in the power of incrementalism. Know that 20 minutes here and there add up. We can make it a priority to find time to devote to personally meaningful endeavors.”

Loving what one does is an utopian ideal. Few will argue against it. But it’s worth remembering a couple of things. Hobbies were something a broad swathe of people could enjoy, while the side hustle is much more middle-class phenomenon. And even those who can afford what Robert A. Stebbins, author of Serious Leisure: A Perspective for Our Time, calls “leisure careers,” might be better off taking a break from being productive.

I’ve seen this both in myself and in other people: it leads to people becoming empty husks of their former selves, with seemingly very little of what I’d call an ‘inner life’.

I’m seeking to rectify this by work being only part of my day. For example, I’m up at 6am every day, and often don’t start work until 10am. In this four-hour timeframe, I’ve already done enough for the day to count as ‘successful’. For example, I’ll have been to the gym, dropped our youngest off at school, written something here, made my wife a cup of tea and had a conversation with her, and so on.

What we’re missing in this post-hierarchy, gig-economy society is the general feeling that it’s OK to do things just for fun/curiosity without it having to be super serious (think: middle-aged guys doing triathlons) or revenue-generating (think: ‘side hustle’).

Image via Nomad Pictures