Noticings on the Hiking Trail and Elsewhere

Warning: Post sans point ahead.

I’ve been very aware of certain patterns, lately. When I started writing about them, I hoped I’d have some awesome realization about what it all means, but alas, I have many questions and no real answers. Yet.

But I figured why not share anyway?

Ready? Commence brain dump!

Pattern #1 – Doing things to the extreme

I’ve been trying to get outside more lately, to try to take real breaks instead of the half-assed periods-of-rest that aren’t really restful at all.

Being at the computer during “break time” isn’t restful. I wish it were, because oh the convenience, but it isn’t.

So I’ve been trying to go hiking a few times a week. There’s a beautiful park with trails about 10 minutes from our house.

But what I’ve noticed is that when I’m on the mountain (okay, mountain might be a bit generous, but it’s definitely bigger and steeper than a hill) is that I’m not really enjoying it. Well, I am but I’m not.

I find myself thinking the following:

How far can I get this time?
How fast can I go this time?
Can I make it all the way up to the top?
It’s already been 25 minutes…should I head back now or try to get a little closer to the top?
Uh oh, there’s someone coming up behind me. I don’t want to have to get out of their way yet, so I’d better speed up.

What this all adds up to is that even though I’m doing good things for myself by getting away from the computer, and getting some solitude, I’m not necessarily doing these things in a healthy way.

Is it really beneficial if I’m trying to power up the mountain and See What I Can Accomplish?

Pattern #2 – All activity must produce something

I guess the noticings while hiking reminded me of other attempts at hobbies.

Back before I knew I wanted to be a coach, I started making beaded jewelry.

But somehow that wasn’t challenging enough, so I had to start making the glass beads, themselves.

I got quite good at it, and really enjoyed it, but it was also about continuing to push myself and get better.

There was always a next step, and my next step was going to be buying my own equipment and setting up a studio so that I could start selling my work.

Then for reasons I won’t go into here, I had to quit making the beads. I was devastated, and quit making jewelry all together.

Eventually I realized that I didn’t really want to make and sell jewelry, anyway, and that led me to feel like there was no point in making it at all.

If there is no producing-something-of-value, don’t bother doing it at all? Is that what I really believe?

Is there such a thing as a hobby that produces nothing but is still enjoyable?

Or are those hobbies just not appealing to me, because I’m wired to create things?

Pattern #3 – Practicing and pushing

Driving to the hiking trail the other day, I saw a father and son in a grassy area.

They had set up six or seven orange traffic cones in a line, and the boy was kicking a soccer ball while weaving between the cones.

Then I noticed that the father had a stop watch, and was timing his son as he practiced the drills.

Seeing that made me feel incredibly sad. Even writing about it now, I kind of want to cry.

Just that one little scene triggered so much stuff.

My stuff around competition and sports and needing to push myself to get better at whatever I was doing. From a very early age. And my stuff around winning and losing.

They turned “going out and kicking a ball around” into “objectively evaluating performance.”

Pattern #4 – The knitting

As I’ve mentioned before, I picked up my knitting again and am working on finishing that scarf I started five long years ago.

Knitting is a bit of a weird hobby for me because I feel like I need to be doing something else while I knit. Watch TV or listen to a podcast or something.

But I’ve been wondering if I’m really enjoying it, or if it’s turned into a Thing to Produce.

If I’m doing a “fun” activity that doesn’t absorb my full attention, does it count as fun? Does it provide the replenishment I’m looking for?

All of which leads me to…

I’m very aware that I need to learn how to replenish myself

I’ve started working on a pretty big thing. A big, scary thing that I want to do but oh it’s so scary.

(Which ties in nicely with Eileen’s post where she talks about the contradiction of wanting and not wanting to do things.)

And maybe because it’s big and scary, after I’ve worked on it for a while, I’m completely drained.

Empty drained.

Can’t even hang out on Twitter drained.

And it’s been happening a lot lately. Which is part of what led me to being more dedicated to getting out of the house to go for a hike. And more dedicated to spending some time knitting every night.

I’m also spending more time doing Dance of Shiva (yep, aff link) and practicing the techniques I’m learning from Hiro.

Yet I’m continuing to have trouble recovering from feeling drained. So I’ll keep working on it.

But here are the real questions:

Have I ever done any activity, ever, without looking at it in terms of accomplishment and production?

Is my tendency to look at hobbies or “fun” in those terms part of why I’m feeling so drained and having a hard time recharging my batteries?

Or is this just the nature of the true creative process, and it’s only now that I’ve begun to use the full extent of my creative energy?

I don’t think it’s inherently a negative to find pleasure in creating or producing something. (That’s sort of what art is all about, right?) There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to improve our skills at something.

But where is the line between enjoying it and turning it into a mountain that needs to be climbed or a game that needs to be won?

Today’s comment zen:

This was me sharing my thought process. A process that has not reached conclusion, yet. I want to hear what you think about your patterns around creativity and fun. Can you relate to what I’ve shared?

But please be very gentle with these thoughts and questions o’ mine. Let’s definitely keep this a should-free zone.

21 thoughts on “Noticings on the Hiking Trail and Elsewhere

  1. darrah

    I totally relate to all of this. Every time I discover something I enjoy doing, I in turn, get good at it. And when I get good at something, I start thinking about how I can make a living at it. I’ve very rarely had a “hobby” because I often feel more connected to my “hobby” than I do to whatever I’m doing to make a living.

    I do think that this is part of the creative process. It would be lovely if I could just enjoy the journey and be satisfied with that, but I usually like to see an outcome. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as I make sure to stop and smell the roses along the way (something I am working on.)

    This post got me thinking…and asking lots of questions of myself…
    .-= darrah´s last blog your mental space a reflection of your physical space? =-.

  2. Tara

    Oh, I can very much relate!
    Knitting (and to some extent spinning) is very product-oriented! I simply don’t knit things that I’m not 100% sure I’ll wear and if I get 1/2 way through and I’m suddenly unsure, I get thrown into this crazy vortex of feeling like knitting it anymore would be an UTTER WASTE.
    Which is silly, since (in theory) it’s the act of knitting that provides some pleasure.
    And it does.
    But I still want the product at the end!

    This is actually a Thing in knitting: are you a product or a process knitter?
    Some knitters just knit for the process, the knitting itself and some knit for the finished item.
    Both are generally accepted ways of going about enjoying the craft!
    .-= Tara´s last blog ..In the local paper! =-.

  3. elizabeth

    Thank you for sharing this! I can relate, but kind of in the opposite way. I think my pattern around creativity would be the opposite. Whenever I start something, it only feels safe and enjoyable if I have no intention at all of doing anything with it. When I started painting, it was fun – because the first time, my only goal was to create my own Mark Rothko (or wait, that sort of is a production goal, hmmmm), and the second time, it was just to paint – because somehow, I knew that it was something I needed to do for me. It’s the same with photography .. taking pictures is like breathing to me. I can’t not take them, but when I start to think about the idea of selling them, it freezes me up and takes some of the joy out of the process because that thought is always in the back of my mind when I’m shooting and some of the freedom (and subsequently renewal) is lost. And I tend to strongly resist anything that smacks of goals and competition though so there is probably some stuff there.

    To one of your questions, though, I find most creative activity energizing as opposed to draining. I find emotional activity very draining (also hunger-inducing, very strange) – like I-need-an-immediate-nap-draining. However, I would imagine that the creative process is somewhat draining after a while – so maybe I am just not working on something that would drain me yet?

    I wonder if there are things that might be re-charging that would be really hard to turn into a goal that you could try sometime? Just to see what they result in? The things I do that are really goal-unrelated would be just wandering around somewhere new, sitting in a coffee shop with a coffee and book, watching a movie ..
    .-= elizabeth´s last blog on alberta street =-.

  4. Bridget Pilloud

    I have an ugly drive to produce too, and I’ve been in denial about it by giving everything that I make away. If I don’t see it, I don’t remember it.

    The only thing that has helped me get over my need to produce has been creating things that will not last. Christmas wreaths, sand mandalas, stuff like that. It’s not going to last, so the value has to be in creating it.

    Measuring progress is so hard not to do! This morning I swam 2300 feet. Why do I know that?

    Maybe we measure because we’re not actually in the moment enjoying it. Like if we really liked it, we wouldn’t measure it? I don’t know. Something to ponder.
    .-= Bridget Pilloud´s last blog ..The Energetic Body Loves Exercise =-.

  5. Grace

    Knitting – well, now. Interesting.

    I can – and do – knit and read, knit and watch movies, knit and talk. I can also just knit. Each different experiences.

    And I’m an obsessed knitter, so I’ve been known on more than one occasion to keep knitting on something because it was all I had with me, even though I knew I was going to have to rip it out. :)

    Being able to truly, deeply, profoundly not do anything was initially one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced. And it’s also the most liberating, rewarding, restful, energizing… I could keep going, but I’ll stop there. I’ve become downright addicted to it.
    .-= Grace´s last blog ..Intentions, Choices, and the New Year =-.

  6. David

    I *so* relate to this.

    When you described your foray into bead-making, it was like you had been watching me learn to animate.

    Must. Climb. Mountain.

    Must. Master. New. Skill.

    This is one of my biggest struggles, absolutely. I started with the thought, “Gee, it would be fun to brew my own beer.”

    Then came the labels. Of course. Then organic grain-buying. Then the thought of creating a local homebrew co-op. Then going to school to study organic chemistry so I can move to Hood River and become a brewer for Full Sail.

    You see where this is going, right? Of course you do, you just wrote about it.

    I can’t just take up running, I have to train for a marathon.

    I can’t just make a Christmas card for my wife, I have to start an online craft card shop. On Christmas Day. So her card doesn’t get made, but the shop is live!

    No shoulds from me. Not even any whys.

    Will an OY VEY suffice?
    .-= David´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

  7. Kelly Parkinson

    Oh my gosh, I have this tendency on the hiking trail and everywhere else, too. It’s not enough to just hike up to the top of the mountain. I have to pass everyone in front of me along the way. I have to beat my time from last time. I have to win the game, even if no one else is even playing. When I realize I’m not having fun at the thing I was doing, then I say, okay, what would make this feel fun for me? What if I played with riding my bike a bit slower and made a game out of getting there in 4th place? What if I let myself write about boogers? What if I just messed with myself and turned down work when I was busy instead of pushing myself to see if I could do it? I love that question, What if? It has been helping me negotiate with my Lance Armstrong side.

  8. Victoria Post author

    You guys are so awesome!

    @darrah – Yes! The infernal “how can I make a living at this” question!

    @Tara – I had no idea it was a *thing*! I feel slightly less neurotic now. :) But yes, I’m most definitely a product knitter.

    @elizabeth – “Whenever I start something, it only feels safe and enjoyable if I have no intention at all of doing anything with it.” So interesting that you said that, because when I started with the bead-making, I did choose it partly because I knew I would be bad at it, and therefore wouldn’t feel disappointed if I wasn’t instantly awesome at it. But then, the minute I saw that I was starting to get good, something shifted, and I started looking at it’s potential for income-replacement. Hmm..

    @Bridget – Yes, more to ponder. Instead of a To Do list, I have a To Ponder list, and it just keeps growing and growing. ;-) But you definitely bring up an interesting point – does the measuring take us out of the moment. I suppose it does.

    @Grace – Knit and read?!? Definitely can’t do that. In fact, I can barely knit and watch TV…it’s more like knit and listen to TV.

    @David – Mr Paaaaants! I think an OY VEY is the perfect response. I found great (and perhaps warped) comfort reading about your beer-making and card-making activities.

    @Kelly – Your Lance Armstrong side! Sometimes I think maybe I have a John McEnroe side. He’s got the drive of Lance Armstrong, but is also reeeeally skilled at throwing tantrums when things don’t go his way. I’m totally going to play with the What If questions, though!

  9. Gina

    What do you mean sans point? Big point, in my opinion. (In case, um, you didn’t want there to be one, as that might be making this post more outcome-based, rather than just writing for the sake of writing. Anyway…

    This is what we’ve come to. What we’re drilled with. In school, out of school. Must. Be. Productive. Life is short! after all.. can’t waste a minute. Maximize potential and all that crap. Sigh.
    .-= Gina´s last blog ..Retreat… RETREAT! (No, really…) =-.

  10. Katherine

    Wow, I just read the first Pattern and had to comment… I understand exactly what you’re saying… I read a similar post today by another blogger, about not being “present in the moment”. I often wish I could just let go and really enjoy whatever task or activity I’m doing at the time…..instead of worrying about a thousand little things.
    Funny, too, that I just picked up a scarf I started knitting last spring, and decided I WILL finish it this weekend so I can wear it to work Monday. (I only started knitting last spring, mostly I draw with colored pencil.)
    I do get impatient with my hobbies, when the finished product takes so long to achieve. I think that’s just part of being goal-oriented and self-motivated. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Thanks for the great thoughts!
    .-= Katherine´s last blog ..THE Playground Coat =-.

  11. Patty K

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks everything she does needs to be productive in some way. Just today, I was looking at a comedy workshop. And I really wanted to take it. So I started trying to shoehorn it into my work – thinking about how I could use the skills in my business. I even dug up an old dream about becoming a professional comic (maybe that really *is* what I want to be when I grow up). But the thing is, I just like doing stand up. And I would want to take the course *just for fun* and I would want to perform *just for fun* and when I start thinking about how I could (or worse, should) make money with it all…it feels heavy and not so fun anymore.

    Thanks for this post. I think you’ve helped me see why I don’t actually *have* any hobbies!
    .-= Patty K´s last blog ..Do we limit ourselves by keeping secrets? =-.

  12. CathyD

    Loved the post!! I can relate, but mostly in an almost opposite way..
    I agree with what Bridget said above, “Maybe we measure because we’re not actually in the moment enjoying it. Like if we really liked it, we wouldn’t measure it? I don’t know. Something to ponder.”

    I do that with running. I cannot abide the idea of, say, running without my stopwatch to clock my exact time to the fraction of a second and to see if I beat yesterday’s time. (So, naturally, i have to go the same route everyday so I can judge my progress.)

    But for other stuff like needlepoint, I have a much more laissez-faire, “let it flow” attitude. While it is satisfying to complete a kit, for example, I can easily lose myself in the process of doing it. I can watch TV while stitching or not — different experience for both.

    I also agree with Gina’s comment. Being productive and results-oriented is drummed into our heads from childhood on, especially once we get into school. Our culture looks askance at daydreaming, imagination, “process”, that “flow” feeling you might have had fingerpainting as a 4 year old… that any of us can manage to get ourselves back into that create-for-the-joy-of-it state at all is pretty darned impressive! :D (And for all we — as a culture — trumpet individuality, we really value conformity. IMHO.)

    So, in my own life as the age 50 milestone looms ahead, I’m finally figuring out that I’m tired of feeling guilty and/or bad about who I am and the way I operate at work and home. I’m the Queen of Beating Myself Up for Who I Am. I am all for self-improvement but am finally learning the value of self-acceptance.

    Why is being outgoing, for example, “better” than being introverted? Why is being imaginative “worse” than being practical? Why am I kicking myself for not molding myself into a cookie cutter shape? Who made these rules and why am I still living by them?

  13. kate

    yup, i am in this camp too!! it’s like you were writing the same conversation i have with myself all the time!

    i finally stopped and asked myself – does ‘creating to produce’ and ‘constant improvement’ make me happy? is that where the joy comes from in doing these things? and basically the answer is YES! (most of the time). that said, i found that just sitting and watching tv or listening to a pod cast makes me very antsy – i can’t just sit and pay attention, my mind wonders too much! (unless totally drained, etc.) so for me, crocheting is just enough when my brain can no longer function and i want to do something rythmic and relaxing while watching tv or listening to music or whatever.

    the only thing i have found that i can successfully singletask and it does not leave me drained or turn into a ‘production’ is: Reading a book

    And really, for relaxing the best are whatever Chick Lit is out there at the moment. Then i just fight the guilties for not doing something that is good for me or purposeful or improving my mind etc. Then i tell my brain to ‘shut it!’ and i read and wake up on the other side of the imagination dream refreshed and with renewed perspective. this does not happen nearly enough. but thanks for making me think! you have just managed to remind me that i need to do this. I havent ready a guilty pleasure book in over 2 years. (!!!!)

  14. Alicia

    Oh boy – I totally grok this.

    Especially #2: I think that for me I have to *justify* doing things I enjoy that take away time or attention from the other people in my life. Like, if I were to spend hours a day noodling in my recording studio for fun (grinning like a very happy person, like I do) while my husband wrangled children, that would not be OK. But since it’s for my business, it’s OK.

    Productivity equals tacit permission. Because I’m working, not playing. (Because playing is *selfish.*)

    Eeek, writing that out makes me very uncomfortable – like I needed more stuck to work on :)


  15. Victoria Post author

    @Gina – Great point…I guess it *is* what we’re taught to do. So I guess that makes me “normal.” LOL

    @Katherine – Glad to hear you can relate! That is one of the things I like about Dance of Shiva is that it really does absorb 100% of my attention if I challenge myself. But I guess it’s debatable whether or not that can be called “fun.” :)

    @Patty K – Oh my goodness I have totally done the same thing – considered doing something that’s just for fun and then given up on it before I even start because just by looking at it it becomes something else. (Whoa, did I just make a Schroedinger’s Cat reference?)

    @CathyD – “Who made these rules and why am I still living by them?” Yes! I think that as we get older, we become more aware of this, and then the process of “shedding” our willingness to live by them begins. I’ve definitely noticed that as I’ve worked on accepting my need for solitude (for example), it’s gotten easier, and I no longer feel as guilty for building my life in ways that supports that trait.

    @kate – Funny that you mentioned reading Chick Lit and then “fighting the guilties” (love that) for not doing something purposeful! I think I read only non-fiction books for at least 15 years (if not 20) for that very reason. My first one was a semi-trashy detective novel, which I only gave myself permission to read because I had 4 hours to kill on a plane. I’d say two years is long enough – you are overdue for some guilty pleasure!

    @Alicia – “Productivity equals tacit permission. Because I’m working, not playing. (Because playing is *selfish.*)” Ooh…yes, you just hit on something I deal with, too. And it runs deep. Thank you for sharing that here. But, if it helps, you have my full permission to let that stuck be, and not add it to a list of “stucks to be worked on” or anything. We can just pretend we didn’t have this conversation. *whistles*

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  17. Dawn

    I really only have two things:
    1. I can totally relate to doing things to extremes. Slowly, slowly, sloooowly unlearning this pattern. And learning to detangle the overwhelm that comes with all of it.
    2. Thank you for writing about your process. For me, at least, the process is how I learn. One of my favorite professors from graduate school consistently reminded us to “trust the process.” So simple but so damn hard to do some days. Her words kept coming to mind as I read your post.

    Thanks, again, for sharing. =)

  18. Victoria Post author

    @Dawn – I’m so glad it’s helpful…it’s easy for me to convince myself that it’s only useful to me. So, whew!

    And I hear you on the “sloooowly” because it’s been really slow for me, too. Hard to imagine that it will ever be 100% unraveled, but all I can do is keep bringing awareness to it and see where that leads.

  19. Michelle

    “All activity must produce something”

    Oh my goodness, I can totally relate! I used to have a craft hobby that I approached this way. Plus, I used to put a lot of pressure on myself when I was writing to make everything I wrote “sellable.” It really took a toll on my ability to enjoy the writing process.

    Now I’m working on relaxing and enjoying the flow of the process. The whole “results-oriented” thing is a hard habit to break, but as Dawn said, “slowly, sloooowly..”
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Why is this Writing Stuff so Important, Anyway? =-.

  20. Lydia, Clueless Crafter

    So you and I are much alike it seems. I love a challenge, asking more of myself when I should just be. From reading your post, I sense ever more that my attitude of cluelessness has been helping me more than I could have imagined. Initially, I was afraid that people would think I was being a clown because I lacked self-esteem (even I was afraid that I could be suggesting that or worse, work at having low esteem), but my position has been totally freeing!

    I go about things without judgement a bit more these days. Of course, I will always judge; however, when I laugh it off, it no longer has its claws on me.

    Happy I came by today.
    .-= Lydia, Clueless Crafter´s last blog ..Knit Wit =-.

  21. Serena

    Hi! I just found you through Havi’s blog. I really liked this post. It caught my eye because my boyfriend and I have such different hiking styles. He powers to the top, making it a race, turning around and saying “Are you coming?” WHile I like to meander and look at the pretty trees and “Oooh a mushroom!” and if I try to keep up with him I am just a sweaty miserable mess. Recently we went to Hawaii and somehow we didn’t end up doing any of the absolutely killer 10 mile gotta do ’em in 4 hours hikes… we just hung out and wandered aimlessly. We hiked down into a valley but got a ride back up from a local, which he never would have done cause the work to get back up would have been the point for him. Anyway, he says it;s the best vacation he’s ever had.

    Sometimes I feel bad that I hold him back when he wants to rush like that since I just can’t take that kind of goal seriously for some reason. But maybe the other perspective helps each of us and gives us balance.

    That being said I am still with you guys on starting something like Yoga and thinking….hmmmm… maybe someday I could teach this and open my own studio and… and….

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