Do you ever feel guilty when you have down time and are not being productive? Sometimes I feel guilty that I spend so much time writing, but don’t make any money from it. I fear that I might be wasting precious God-given time, falsely equating productivity with money.
We live in an unprecedented moment in history. Ads promise to teach us how to escape our 9 to 5 day jobs, turn our passions into side hustles, side hustles into 6-figure incomes, 6-figure incomes into passive income streams so that we can travel the world.
Popular career advice now says, “Follow your passion.” We are assured, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” But confusingly, we are then promised “the 5 secret steps to never work again.”
Perhaps we have come to place too much expectation in our careers and side hustles to solve all our problems.
In the blogging world, there is constant pressure to optimize and monetize blogs while increasing social media followings. At the same time, serious bloggers are supposed to start a podcast or YouTube channel and sell a master class and grow a membership community and write a best-selling book on Amazon—as we didn’t already have full-time jobs and families to take care of.
In our modern world, the list of things that we could—and should—be doing is endless.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with monetizing a blog or other creative hobby. But if we are not vigilant, we might allow the worldly pressure to monetize our leisure time to rob us of its inherent joy. So before you turn your passion into profit, read on.
The Therapeutic Value of Hobbies
Hobbies improve mental health and well-being, acting as a buffer against everyday stress. Whereas TV, streaming services, and social media give us momentary distraction, hobbies—especially creative ones—allow us to enter an active flow state.
A term first coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his classic book Flow, the flow state occurs when we get lost in an activity where time seems to fly. It is associated with increased happiness, greater creativity, and better emotional regulation. It is correlated with higher levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, pleasure, and reward.
If you struggle with a persistent inner critic, flow gives you a break from these thoughts. Research shows that people in the state of flow had a decrease in “self-referential thinking,” or thinking about themselves, their performance, or how others might see them. In other words, the flow state shuts down our nagging self-critical dialogue.
Other studies show that having a creative hobby helped people recover faster from stressful work environments. It also helped people perform better at work in terms of creative problem-solving and helping other people.
Engaging in a hobby is enjoyable in and of itself because we are working on something that is meaningful to us or satisfying to complete. Hobbies help us to slow down and disconnect with the challenges of daily life. They can help us decrease screen time and social media use.
The more stress and day-to-day overwhelm we feel, the more we will find therapeutic value in a simple hobby.
The Changing Landscape of Work in America
The pressure to monetize our hobbies is not surprising given our culture of busyness. In the past, it was considered a status symbol to have lots of free time for leisure and vacations. Nowadays, busyness and overwork are perceived as positive status symbols in American culture.
(Interestingly, this is not the case in European cultures, where leisure time is more highly regarded.)
In one study, researchers studied the social perceptions of busy individuals in the U.S. The studies showed that people regarded busier individuals as being more important on both social media and in real life. Overworked individuals with little leisure time rated higher on scales of competence and ambition. They were perceived as being scarcer and in demand—and, thus, higher on the social ladder.
The nature of the workplace is changing dramatically as well. A recent study showed that more than 57 million Americans used freelance work and side hustles to supplement their income. This is the equivalent of about 35 percent of the total workforce.
Compared to the past generations who stayed at the same company for 40 years, we have astonishing freedom and choice to get paid to “do what we love.”
When Hobbies Become Jobs
Because of these trends, there is pressure to justify every waking hour with productivity—or income. Our hobbies become potential streams of income. But just because we can make a few more bucks, should we?
The question at hand is whether God has blessed us with a hobby for our refreshment or to provide for us monetarily (or both). If it is the former, we must guard against the insidious pressure to monetize. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (NIV).
For once we try to monetize a passion, we risk losing the benefits of enjoying it as a hobby. Voice actor Jeff Bennett once said, “Sometimes when you turn a hobby into a job, it becomes work.” A job is something that we have to do, and a hobby is something that we get to do. Even if we love what we do, a job or business is still comprised of responsibilities that we are obliged to do, whether we feel like it or not.
The Potential Burnout of Our Passion
Forcing ourselves to focus on the day-in-day-out aspects of monetizing can lead to the burnout of our passion. We might love a craft but dislike the promotion or business-building side of it. Or we start to focus overly on meeting client demands, rather than the aspects of the craft that we loved in the first place. For some people, the obligation leads them to hate the very thing they once loved.
In exchanging our craft for money, we jump on a new kind of hamster wheel, running under pressure to produce and perform. If you are already juggling many plates of responsibility, adding a money-making side hustle means one more spinning plate to balance.
Again, there is nothing wrong with monetizing a hobby. But for those of us who feel burned out and overwhelmed already, the last thing we need is another job. Turning a cherished hobby into a job throws off our work-life balance even further. It might just kill our passion altogether.
The Christian Joy of Hobbies
So let’s be discerning and reject the pressure to monetize every gift or ability that God has given us. If you are unsure whether to monetize a hobby, ask God and seek His guidance by spending time in His Word.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In 1 Timothy 6:17, the apostle Paul tells us to put our hope in God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Let’s find simple joy and contentment in our God-given hobbies, whether it be gardening, photography, home interior decorating, crocheting, baking, writing, or playing an instrument.
These moments serve as therapeutic refreshment to help us cope with daily stress, a place of refuge to enjoy with no outside pressure. God knows our need for rest from the work that we do every day, and hobbies are one way for us to receive that much needed refreshment.
Hobbies Go Beyond Ourselves
Just as we give thanks for good food and friends, we can do the same for the good hobbies that God provides us, delighting in Him as the giver of these good gifts. When we enjoy our hobbies with praise and thanksgiving, they become a way for us to worship and glorify Him. First Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Finally, the humble act of creating is in itself a way of glorifying God. Genesis 1-2 describes God’s process of creating the heavens, earth, animals, and man. In other words, He is the ultimate Creator. Because God created man in the image of God, we reflect God’s image whenever we create out of created things.
God will sometimes lead us to bless our neighbors through our creative abilities. After all, hobbies require time, talents, and treasures, which God wants us to steward well. Whether we monetize or not, we can use our goods, services, and skills to provide for and encourage others.
In sum, God may have given us a hobby for personal enjoyment, to serve others, to make money, or a combination. Understanding these purposes is key to determining our expectations towards our hobbies—and thus preventing their burnout.
When deciding between hobby or hustle, make sure your decision won’t kill your passion. Ask God today how He wants to use your hobbies. It’s the best way to protect your passion.
What do you enjoy about your favorite hobby? What role does that hobby serve in your life? If you don’t have a hobby, ask God to bless you with one.
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“What do you hunger for most in your creativity? There is no guarantee of sales, popularity, contracts, or fans. But God does guarantee His presence in all you do…if you seek it above all else.” –Allen Arnold, author