Required Reading: How Prescriptive Reading Ruined my Hobby

When I was a kid, I was a prolific reader. It was the thing I won badges for in school and the thing that swept me up and away from real life. It was my one true hobby as a kid: it was the thing that trumped all other things to do.

And then I went to university.

It’s not that going to university is a bad thing. I’m a college professor now, and I live and love being on campus, working with students, helping others find passion in their field. But going to school, for me, wasn’t great for my reading hobby. When I went to university to get my Bachelor’s of Arts in English, I knew I’d have to read what they told me to read (and doing so was an expansive (!) and amazing (!!) experience for me) but little did I know how badly 4 years of prescriptive reading would ruin my enjoyment of pleasure reading.

It was only after those 4 years of learning “good” scholarly canonical literature, that I felt conflicted about what to read next. I began to question my “want” to read something with what I felt I “should” read. I no longer followed my favorite fluffy authors, eagerly awaiting their next piece of fluffy fiction because according to my modernist lit class, all the good author’s were dead.

What happened next was sad, and quite common — I stopped reading. I couldn’t make up my mind on what to read, and so, like a poorly oiled motor, I choked. Sure I picked up the odd Harry Potter or Canada Reads book here and there, I even had a small online book club going for awhile, but ever since I went to school, I haven’t read like I did when I was younger (up all night, can’t put it down, waiting for the next one…that kind of reading).

Fast forward to today — I am standing in the Ottawa Public Library shelves at Rosemount (get your card today!) and picking up my holds. I’ve started reading books in relation to my hobby, with the hopes that it will turn the crank of the reading motor inside me again. I really hope it will, and I’m even considering going TV free for the month of July to help things along.

Does starting with a non-fiction long form style cookbook count?

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I’ll keep you posted.


Social Media Accountability and Doing Nothing on Purpose

It was last summer when I first realised how pathetic my life had become. Not pathetic in the sense of sadness, or desperation – I was a new mom, and my life by all common sense was very fulfilled – but pathetic in the sense that I…wasn’t doing much. My life consisted of diaper changes, feedings, and more diaper changes and more feedings, and of course my exciting weekly outing to baby-and-me yoga where I talked to other moms about diaper changes and feedings. I decided that I needed something else in my life.

I needed a hobby.

I have never been a fan of doing things without monetary purpose. I have worked, and made money from working, since I was 13-years old, stuffing flyers in people’s mailboxes even though homeowners didn’t want me to. I played sports a bit in high school, and sure, I crafted and created and built little projects here and there, but I never picked up a needle and thread, or figure skates, or banjo (thank god) just for the sake of it. I never did an activity, outside of watching TV or reading, which was purely about the enjoyment of that specific activity.

With this realisation, and at the insistence of my hobby-loving husband, I decided to embark on a search for the perfect hobby for me. I started by searching around the internet, delving into the history of hobbies, leisure, and the art of “doing nothing”. It all seemed so bizarre and pointless. But then I started reading about famous people’s hobbies. People like billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, a man who is synonymous with monetary success, but who also apparently is an amateur ukulele player?


As I fell deeper into the well of research, I began to understand the draw of pleasurable pursuits a bit more.

Despite this encouragement, and knowing myself as an adept procrastinator/talker/lazy type, I knew instinctively that if I did not create a sense of accountability for myself for this hobby project, that I would not be successful. Therefore, to create a sense of responsibility, I decided to document my search for a hobby on Instagram.

By using Social Media to reach out to others, and to inform others about what I was doing, I was essentially creating an audience. By creating an audience, I was encouraging myself to stay accountable on the project.

I am several weeks into the project now (which I have named Hobby Harpy), and so far this system has worked! I am buoyed by the support of my audience, mostly friends/family, and also spurred on by the additional support of like-minded experts in the field.

My first hobby project is container vegetable gardening – a fun one for the spring/summer season. I hope you’ll check it out HERE. My swiss chard just sprouted! Plus check out my “Rude Barb” (rhubarb) plant!


Do you have any special hobbies or leisure activities that you love to do? What is it that you love about it? Have you read any books on the topic of leisure or hobbies? I love new research materials, so please pass them along in the comments.


Image Links and Works Cited:

Zipkin, N. (2018, March 19). The Unusual Hobbies of 8 of the World’s Most Successful Business Leaders. O Magazine.