I used to have hobbies.

I seem to remember being interested in a whole range of things. I recall experiments with yarn and other craft items, and messing around with various sports that I was middling-to-terrible at, and unsuccessfully cooking several complicated food items.

But while attending a holiday party after a remarkably busy (and happy) year, I was recently asked, “So… any hobbies?

I stared blankly at the poor questioner, “Um. Uh… going out to restaurants? I mean. Reading, I guess?” I said while swirling my seasonally-appropriate eggnog.

She looked suitably unimpressed.

I realized something – while I’m very lucky to have had such a nice year doing things I enjoy, I’m missing something in my life. And while it’s understandable to develop this dearth during busy periods, it’s something that I need to make room for once again:

Completely non-work-related, structure-less, purely-for-laughs playtime.

I’ve learned this lesson before – and the warning signs are clear. But what’s the big deal? One would think making time for fun is easy!

Ha ha ha ha. If, like me, you are a bit of a feedback-craving workaholic AND fundamentally enjoy your job, it is harder than it seems.

Let me explain to you the precise manner in which I am a sicko: say that I want to learn to knit. Some part of me just wants to learn to knit, true – but I also, simultaneously, want to be the Best Knitter Possible. Maybe even the Best Knitter Ever! I get the supplies, and I get the how-to books. Heck, maybe I’ll take a class! Yes, a nice little knitting class MOVE OUT OF THE WAY GRANDMA I WAS REGISTERING FIRST. Even as I struggle through making my first scarf, I’ll be thinking – how can I tie this into my work? Who can I show this to in order to improve? WON’T ANYBODY GIVE ME NOTES ON MY SCARF-MAKING ABILITY? WON’T ANYBODY GIVE ME A STICKER AND A KNITTING A+++?!!


Join the nation's largest group representing the new workforce (it's free!)

Become a member


I’m sure I’m not the only one.

In some areas of my life, this obsessive drive is helpful! I think it’s a common trait amongst freelancers – after all, determination and “an addiction to workahol” are almost mandatory when you’re an entrepreneur.

The problem arises when you find it increasingly hard to relax – when you can’t just unplug and relax and be silly, when your mind just wants to run and run on the hamster wheel of your goals.

But without this playtime, you will go slightly nuts. Trust me, I have experimented extensively on this issue.

Your obsession with work will make you unable to stop talking about work, and you will see your friends’ and acquaintances’ eyes glaze over as they edge politely away from you. Your refusal to ever truly disengage will hurt your productivity, as your brain slowly rebels. You will become dull. You will become less creative. You will, inevitably, burn out.

For 2015, I need to find activities that I enjoy that I am simultaneously kinda mediocre at – things that I cannot possibly connect to my work. Frivolous activities. Fundamentally useless activities. Things done just for the heck of it.

That’s one of my resolutions at the beginning of this new year – to make more time for pure, enjoyable nonsense; the kind that can never garner an A+, but which can let my poor little overwhelmed brain relax. Absolutely no useful, goal-achieving feedback allowed.

Ah… what fun.

What about you, fellow freelancers? What do you do for completely useless fun? Tell us in the comments!

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.