Hobby Enthusiasm Decay?

Today I planned to write about how my enthusiasm for some hobbies just stops as I pick up new interests. It’s probably a very normal thing to happen, but sometimes I wonder if the intensity with which I pursue my hobbies is unusual. (What about you? Do you stick with one hobby for a lifetime, or do you change like I do?) Anyway, in preparation for writing, I did a quick internet search for “hobby enthusiasm,” just to see what was out there. One of the first results was about “hobby enthusiasm decay”, which is apparently a feature of the Sims games where if your Sims character doesn’t spend enough time on their hobby, their enthusiasm declines. Interesting. This sidetracked me long enough to read through some other things in that same Sims document, like this:

When Sims reach level 3 in enthusiasm, they’re so consumed with their hobbies that they may dream about them.

I guess I’m at level 3 of birding, then, because birds make their way into my dreams very often nowadays. In fact, when I’m at a birding event like the Biggest Week in American Birding, I have bird dreams almost every night. (Which prompts me to wonder when a hobby becomes an obsession….) And then there was this:

Any time Sims spend not building enthusiasm for a hobby, their enthusiasm for it slowly decays. The higher a Sim’s enthusiasm for a hobby, the faster it’ll decay. Thus, staying at a hobby’s highest levels requires regular indulgence.

Winding wool yarn for a project

Ok, that must be what happened to my knitting. You see, for the first decade of this century I was consumed with knitting. It started innocently enough, with an impulse purchase of yarn and needles at a craft store to re-live a favorite hobby from my childhood. It progressed into taking a class to refresh my skills. That led to connections with other knitters, and involvement in online knitting communities. Then a part-time job in a yarn store. Then joining a local group that met weekly at a coffee shop. Then to creating my own designs and setting up a publishing business to distribute them online and in stores across the country. By then (around 2005), I had a room in my home dedicated to my business and yarn storage. I traveled to knitting festivals, conferences, and trade shows. I didn’t have room for any other hobbies because yarn and knitting took over my life. When my husband and I went on vacation each year, I carried along lists of all the yarn stores on our route so I could get “souvenir” yarn.

It makes me tired just thinking of how much energy I put into all that. But look at me now, in 2012, two years into a growing obsession with birding. It happened innocently enough….LOL.

The sweater I made from that red yarn. It occurs to me that I might have been watching a bird here!

For some indefinable reason I suddenly lost interest in the world of knitting in 2010. Although maybe I can define it: When knitting became my job, it lost much of its appeal as a hobby. I enjoyed having my own business though, so I focused on that for several years. My patterns were selling well enough, but I soon realized that the yarn companies were squeezing small pattern publishers like me out of the market by giving away free patterns to help sell their yarn. After five years, it just wasn’t worth it to me anymore; the work required to make any significant income was far out of proportion to the amount of money that could be made. And I didn’t want to give up control of any part of my business either. So I decided to stop producing new products and stopped all my advertising and marketing efforts. I still make a little money from the last sales trickling in from online sales, but am thinking of pulling all my patterns from the market and closing the business down completely (to simplify our taxes if nothing else).

By 2010 I no longer knitted every day. I slowly stopped reading the yarn shop newsletters that flooded my email in-box. I let my subscriptions to knitting magazines lapse.  At the same time, a bigger awareness of birds crept into my life.

We’d been feeding the birds for a dozen years or so, and in the fall of 2010 we signed up for Project Feederwatch (PFW). That’s a citizen-science project run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where you count and report the birds you see at your backyard feeders through the winter months. We also began getting newsletters about birds as a result of joining PFW, and that might be how I first found out about the Biggest Week in American Birding. After we attended that awesome migration event in May 2011, we were both hooked on birds. Really hooked. When I think back to that weekend we spent watching warblers at Magee Marsh in northwest Ohio, I get a smile on my face remembering the magic of all those colorful warblers just dripping from the trees all around us. (I wrote about the first one here, and the second one here.)

Rose-breasted Grosbeak male

I’m still knitting, but now there are entire weeks in which I don’t even pick up my current knitting project. Instead of knitting magazines, my mailbox fills up with birding magazines. Instead of chatting with knitters online, I’ve become part of the online birding communities, particularly in Ohio and here in Michigan. We’ve joined Audubon chapters in both of the counties we bird most often, and have met some really wonderful people. Birders are so much fun, and for some reason they are hilarious on message boards. And almost everyone is happy to share their knowledge, whether it’s about bird behaviors or where to find a particular bird. I’m having the greatest time learning more about this beautiful planet by spending time with the birds who know it far better than we humans do. And most importantly, it gets me off the sofa, away from the computer, and out of doors! (The couch time was one thing that always bothered me about knitting so much…and now I have chronic back pain to show for it.)

Just a part of our bird book collection…

I know that part of what motivates me to pursue a specific interest is the learning that comes with it. I get a great deal of satisfaction from new knowledge, just for the sake of knowledge. So whether I get that knowledge by reading or by talking with other people or by spending time in the field, it’s all good. (And it’ll come in handy if I ever get on Jeopardy…) My husband is used to me pausing in my reading to tell him about something fascinating I’ve just read. I study and highlight my bird books, whether they’re paper books or Kindle books. Oh don’t get me started on my love of books….

Now if only I could get motivated to sell all this yarn and all those knitting books!!!

So tell me about how you pursue your hobbies.

This entry was posted in Birds and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Hobby Enthusiasm Decay?

  1. Louise Shellhammer says:

    I stumbled upon your website by Googeling “knitting” and “grosbeak”. Very Interesting!! [Personnally, I’ve never had the patience for knitting, much to my Mother’s chagrin! I give you much credit for all your hobbies…] Can you possibly assist me? I am trying to find someone who will create a knitting pattern for a rose-breated grosbeak. A friend is looking for a pattern to give as a Christmas present; their weekend home up in Connecticut is called “Grosbeak Gardens” and they want to knit a “stuffed animal”. Many thanks to you or anyone who might be able to steer me in the right direction! Happy Birding! lshell952@oh.rr.com

  2. This was a really interesting post. My knitting friends and I have often speculated that if we were to start knitting for profit it could suck the joy right out of our craft. What you are saying about it seems to back that up. I’m glad you have been able to find another hobby to fill in the void. I love reading about your birding adventures!

  3. I tend to drift between intense bursts of the same few hobbies. I swap over if I see something shiny, or if specific inspiration strikes, or in the case the Sims, when I realise I’m spending more time making sure the pixellated version of me is being fed and watered than the real version and probably ought to do something more productive with my spare time. 😀

I love your comments -- talk to me here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s