Rewarding Leisure
August 9, 2015 6:13 AM   Subscribe

I want to spend my evenings/weekends making, rather than consuming. Help me plan to do that. I’m looking for examples of activity that is creative, enjoyable and of some value to others.

Creative: Perhaps productive would be a better word. So, “I love to paint” qualifies. And “I answer questions about taxes at the local library” also qualifies.

Enjoyable: Does it give you pleasure? I’m not looking for career options or a second job. I am looking for rewarding time that doesn’t feel like work.

Of some value to others: For example, journaling, while worthwhile, would not be of direct value to others, but “writing a silly poem for my daughter on her birthday” definitely would.

I’ve written this question broadly, because my own thinking on this subject may be needlessly constricted.
posted by ferdydurke to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
I knit or draw while listening to podcasts & snuggling with a dog.
posted by WesterbergHigh at 6:21 AM on August 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

I crochet in the evenings, in front of the television. I turn off the television to learn the pattern or to create a new one and then it's back on while I produce whatever lovely thing that I imagined. I then give the lovely thing to someone who will appreciate it. Project Linus accepts new blankets for children who have been displaced or who are seriously ill. Homeless shelters need scarves, hats, and mittens. When you give someone at their lowest something that was made my hand, it can communicate to them that they are worth somebody's effort. It can mean a lot.
posted by myselfasme at 6:21 AM on August 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

I spend a good portion of my free time crafting. Each year I pick something different and make several to give as Christmas gifts. Having that goal and specific time frame keeps me focused.

I also spend (maybe too much) time planning parties. Nothing huge, just for each upcoming event that my family would be getting together for anyway, I pick a theme or look for new ways to accommodate everyone's tastes and dietary needs. (I think) my family appreciates this, because it shows them that someone is thinking of them and caring for them. I'll also craft things in the theme, like centerpieces, pretty cupcake toppers, or bunting, or even just buffet labels (so we know which food is vegan, GF, etc).
posted by AliceBlue at 6:28 AM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Gardening. Cooking. Grow herbs and dry them. Make preserves.
posted by mr vino at 6:33 AM on August 9, 2015

One of my major creative outlets is running a role playing game for my friends. Being a game master is rewarding for me and greatly appreciated by those who play the game.
posted by nolnacs at 6:34 AM on August 9, 2015 [12 favorites]

I cook breakfast at a homeless shelter on Sunday mornings. Not to be super worthy, but I enjoy it. And now I can cook a mean full breakfast, any style you like it, for 40 people on the fly!
posted by teststrip at 6:43 AM on August 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

Yeah, knitting and crocheting serve this purpose for me. Once you get the hang of it, you can make gifts for other people, or give your stuff away to charities or even sell it on Etsy and donate the proceeds to charity.

Also, answering questions here on askmefi feels fun and productive and is (hopefully) helpful to others.

You could also volunteer at a local animal shelter or if you have a dog, maybe get your pup certified as a therapy animal so you can visit hospitals/nursing homes/etc.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:55 AM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I would like to agree with myselfasme: we received a relatively uncomplicated, but handmade, patchwork baby blanket in the ER while waiting for an ICU bed and it was really touching and comforting and a nice splash of color among the plain white hospital linens.
posted by telepanda at 7:12 AM on August 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

I do genealogy. It has a benefit for my family and descendents. I sometimes do it for friends that ask and even strangers that have a brick wall.

It's fascinating research studying human drama and history. Old newspapers, death certificates and censuses bring me into centuries of families different from my own. While helping people I've learned about slave revolts, revolutions, diseases, and political regimes.
posted by beccaj at 7:15 AM on August 9, 2015 [6 favorites]

i think the value part is critical here. and the related issue of how valuable art is. and how difficult it is for artists to make a living (afaik).

if you think art is valuable in itself, or can sell it, it seems like the world is your oyster.

if not, i think it's quite difficult. cooking would be one option - i think many more people appreciate jams and pickles and cakes and biscuits than they do art.

for me, opensource coding fits well. i enjoy writing stuff and sometimes people use it, so apparently it has value.
posted by andrewcooke at 7:27 AM on August 9, 2015

crap. just as editing closed i realised how badly phrased many more people appreciate jams and pickles and cakes and biscuits than they do art was - i meant something more like "people are less choosy about food than art" (so it's easier to make something of value to a limited audience).
posted by andrewcooke at 7:33 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

nthing knitting/crocheting.

I find that cooking fills this need for me, also. In real life, I really enjoy TV and I don't actually want to forbid myself from watching TV, but I'm also uncomfortable spending hours on end sitting on the couch. So I knit while I do it - or I cook! You can make a pretty healthy, elaborate dinner in the course of an hour or so of TV. (This works better with reruns, since you're running back and forth stirring and chopping, or with mindless TV - Chopped or House Hunters or whatever.)

Finally, your nerd may vary, but even as an adult I super enjoy editing/commenting on and writing fanfic. There are a lot of nice internet communities and lots of people who will enjoy your writing - way more people than, like you say, journaling (or poem-writing, or whatever). But this is of course an acquired taste, heh.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:45 AM on August 9, 2015

I love to make things from other things. I've made forks into phone holders and pendants, and pieces of used circuit board into covers for (paper) notebooks; I've made a BBQ from a steel counter top, drinking glasses from bottles and a jeweler's anvil from an old cobbler's last. Many of these items are desirable or useful to me or others, and I've given lots of things away, and people seem to like them.
Often, when I'm busy making stuff, I experience what I call 'maker's high'. It's the joy of being creative. It's rewarding in itself.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:50 AM on August 9, 2015

A good resource that you may not have seen yet is
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:51 AM on August 9, 2015

I build cigar box guitars and give them to my friends.
posted by my-username at 7:54 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Learn how to play a musical instrument and, if the instrument's portable, find a local jam session. You don't have to know how to play expertly to have fun at and contribute to a jam session. Presence matters.

Choral singing: same thing with the presence and not having to be an expert.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 8:14 AM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I spend a lot of time making things. I cook and knit. I make comics and collage postcards. I write a blog.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:53 AM on August 9, 2015

I carve stuff for block printing. It takes awhile so there's always plenty to do in the evenings - researching designs, initial sketches, transferring the sketch, and then the actual carving. One of my more complicated pieces can take a few weeks before I'm ready to print and after that, there's the fun of building unique frames or trying to print on weird stuff.

I like that there are distinct stages as I can go to bed feeling like I accomplished something rather than feeling frustrated I didn't get enough done.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:09 AM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I enjoy doing a very non-extreme version of extreme couponing for toiletries. I recently gave a ton of toothpaste and stuff to some visiting family members, and they were really grateful. Plus it satisfies some of my shopping/spending urges without really spending anything.
posted by jabes at 10:53 AM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Edible mushroom hunting. Start by going out with expert guides on group hunts (find your local Mycological Society chapter, or Meetup group). Even if you don't enjoy eating mushrooms, it's pleasurable just to spend a leisurely walk in the forest or park, seeking them out, studying them, taking photographs. You could, of course, replace mushroom hunting with other wild edibles that you may actually enjoy taking home.

Digitizing and archiving family photographs, slides, film negatives, 8mm reels, etc.

Recording ambient/nature sounds, or the weirdly psychedelic things I often stumble onto on AM radio.

Fixing or cleaning up broken/dirty things (a necklace chain in need of repair; leather shoes in need of conditioning and polishing).

Figuring out ways to use up all the excess tomatoes, peppers and herbs from my garden - i.e. making tomato sauce, gazpacho, bloody marys; jalapeno poppers or jam; habanero vodka. I often give these away as gifts.

Doing yoga, and encouraging a friend or family member to do it with me.
posted by nightrecordings at 12:41 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yet another vote for knitting or crocheting. Sewing would probably work too but requires more space and equipment. Cooking could also be good if you have a ready recipient for things you like to make.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 1:30 PM on August 9, 2015

Like jabes, I "extreme coupon" in a casual fashion. Lately, I've been looking to expand this hobby in ways that will help my local food pantry. I've gotten fairly skilled at obtaining free or nearly free toiletries and some foods (I focus on cereal, pasta, peanut butter, and canned tuna -- drugstores are where I get my best deals and these foods are readily available there); I have talked with volunteers at the food pantry and all of these items are in high demand for people in need. I find the coupon "game" a fun little challenge for myself (free mascara! Nearly free razors! Etc.) and I'm going to start more earnestly combing it with giving to the needy.
posted by katie at 1:50 PM on August 9, 2015

How about rehabbing bikes for kids? There might already be a local group doing this.
posted by bentley at 2:10 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of my hobbies is making ceramics, mainly functional wheel thrown work. I think that whether or not you will enjoy this activity versus feeling like it's work depends a lot on your personality. I am somewhat type A perfectionist, like to be good at things, and like to have a lot of control over my work so this is probably not the best fit for me. There is a certain amount of unpredictability in some of the glazing and firing process, and like a lot of artistic things, you can pour as much time as you want into it and still feel like you could make it better. I feel like most of the making process is definitely work, but I get a lot of satisfaction from finished pieces that turn out how I wanted them, so this is work that I find is worth doing for me. When I get my pieces after the glaze firing and things are seemingly magically transformed (or ruined!) it is incredibly personally rewarding (or disappointing!). That other people can use or like my pieces is a side bonus, but not really why I do this.
Something new that I've been working on in the last year though has been these relatively non functional fish pig sculpture guys and these have actually been fun enough to make that the process itself has been pretty fun.
posted by tangaroo at 5:13 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nthing knitting/crocheting. Calligraphy is also a great hobby to pick up. It doesn't take up much space and you don't have to be too fancy with your equipment (although there's definitely room for that.) You won't have to buy people cards anymore, and you can help people out with invitations, place cards, and interesting decorative quotations. Like knitting, this hits a great sweet spot of focusing and spacing out; you can do it while watching Netflix or completely get in the calligraphy zone.

Putting a natural inclination to research/read/explore to a more productive use might work also. That could be through metafilter, editing wikipedia, or some other community.

And while I haven't gotten around to doing it myself, I've always thought it would be awesome to record for Librivox. It looks like a great way to spend time with interesting texts while creating something cool and useful for other people.
posted by earth by april at 5:48 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I unlock the door of the local Zen community center so people can come in and meditate if they want. There are various other routine tasks, both ritual and practical (and decorative - ikebana). We have some regulars, and once in a while an absolute beginner will poke their head in the door. Often no one shows up, and the effort doesn't feel wasted.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:41 PM on August 9, 2015

Making cards/notepaper and sending friends snail mail. Always appreciated, very creative.
I knit little square dishcloths - simple, don't require huge swaths of time, useful gifts.
Making jewellery.
Sewing - friends always appreciate simple blankets, cushion covers, etc. I buy enough fabric/supplies for 5-6 blankets at a time, and can pull out projects to work on whenever I fancy.
posted by shazzam! at 9:13 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

People I know do: cheese making, home brewed beer, home brewed wine, home infused liqueur, home made bread, quilting, canning, make jams, smoke meat, write comedy sketches, perform improv, play instruments, play in jam bands, write electronic music , make kit analogue synths, write short stories, do local historical research, knit clothes and toys, embroider, crochet, make indie games, sew leather bags, learn languages, read books, 3D print objects, build arduino projects...

I do not do most of these things, but these people all enjoy the heck out of their lives and I appreciate the fruits of their crafty labours greatly.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:10 PM on August 9, 2015

Seconding knitting items for others while listening to audiobooks and podcasts. It's the best.

Enjoyable: Does it give you pleasure? I’m not looking for career options or a second job. I am looking for rewarding time that doesn’t feel like work.

To most this might feel like work, but I genuinely enjoy and get pleasure from typing quickly. I was doing transcription for fun (friends' projects, my own projects) to scratch this itch (ok also typeracer), but realized a few months ago that I could be making some money on the side from it. So I caption videos for Rev and transcribe audio and video on Fiverr . Captioning benefits anyone who is hearing impaired, or just has to watch TV on really low cause the kids are asleep, or can't understand an accent or mumbled speech and has to turn on subtitles. Transcription lets me help people with their interesting (and sometimes bizarre) projects.

I was actually a little embarrassed by how much I enjoy just... typing, so I was very happy to find a use for it.
posted by moons in june at 12:55 AM on August 10, 2015 [8 favorites]

I recently took up two things: oil painting and needlepoint. The oil painting started because I watched the Big Painting Challenge which really inspired me. I painted a lovely apple for my mother in law because she has an apple theme in her kitchen. She really liked it and it was easier than I thought it would be. I'm always looking at things with a new eye now looking for things to paint.

However the painting is super absorbing and I can't do anything else. Also once you start it is a big time commitment. The needlepoint is like painting by numbers and it is portable and you can pick it up for 10 minutes or two hours. I have two projects going: a nun's head in cotton to be turned into a seat cushion and an illuminated manuscript with lots of marginalia done in silk to be a wall hanging.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:03 PM on August 11, 2015

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