Don't Make It Work

Don't Make It Work

I’ve realized recently that I have to very carefully create boundaries around my hobbies to protect them.

I like to take pictures. Sometimes of my cats, other times of neat things I see while traveling or exploring, and always to document things that I find interesting in the physical world.

The encroachment of legitimacy

It starts with a cheap sewing machine before spiraling into boxes of fabric, rare and vintage patterns, accessories and notions. And that’s precisely what I’m trying to avoid. Or, it could start with a basic sub-$100 starter bow and some cheap arrows, but before you know it you’re over two thousand deep in Olympic carbon limbs and aluminum frames with micron-precise arrow spines. In the attempts to become “good at the thing”, you’ve turned it into a job.

I have to be clear - I’m extraordinarily privileged that I can both have hobbies at all, and afford to not commercialize them. This is an increasingly narrowing section of society.

To set boundaries, I have to place limits around my hobby. These parameters are all entirely self-imposed and meant to be broken, but the core idea is to keep it “fun”.

  • No tripods
  • No lighting gear (reflectors and lamps are okay)
  • Photos must be JPEG - No RAW photos to manually post-process
  • Lens hoods should be avoided to not look “professional”
  • Auto-exposure and auto-focus are fine and should be used appropriately
  • No calendar events or schedules
  • Absolutely no “gigs”

There are also some things that are implicitly okay:

  • Lenses are okay, as long as they will be used and loved
  • Film is okay, provided somebody else does the developing

It has to be a purely creative pursuit

This is also the way I’ve run this website for the past five years. At first, it was a sneaky way to build web presence and put my name up the search page as a way to build some legitimacy in my early career, but it’s now more or less a fun creative writing outlet that just happens to share subject matter with my job. It’s also been very effective at both goals - I now rank in the top 10 for five different high-volume keywords, and have somewhat of a career.

But, the temptation to stick banner ads, paywalls, newsletter popups, and tracking scripts all over my site is ever present. I’m willing to put a tip-jar-link at the very bottom of the page, but that’s as far as I’ll go. Ultimately, the reason I don’t do this is that the couple dollars per month I may earn that way will never replace the loss of creative outlet. That would effectively take something free, and replace it with a part-time job that requires an up-front investment of free time.

If you enjoy something, don’t make it work.