Five Free Hobbies to Pick up This Spring
#1 - Writing
When I was a child, my parents would send me to my room whenever I misbehaved. The idea was to have me reflect on my poor behavioral decisions in solitary confinement, but what ended up happening, nine times out of ten, was that I’d plunk myself down on the floor and start scrawling out stories in the notebooks I kept stacked beside my bed.
When I was first starting out, I knew nothing about writing’s deep intricacy; I just knew that I liked to put the stories in my head on paper. Something about the creative process appealed to me, and by pursuing writing in my spare time, I had the chance to explore that interest.
Nowadays, starting to write is as easy as booting up Google Docs and jotting down the first sentence that comes to mind. It can be as terrible as you like—the first sentence of this article was hardly a masterpiece when I first thought of it—but commit to seeing it through. There’s always time to go back and edit your work once you’ve gotten it down on the page, and the more practice you get churning out ideas rapid fire, the better you’ll get at coming up with clear, snappy sentences on the spot.
Although some writers shrink at the idea of monetizing their hobby—claiming that doing so takes the fun out of a valuable creative outlet—it’s an option I can’t recommend enough. Amazon, for instance, offers a convenient platform for authors to self-publish their work, promising writers up to 70% of the profits their books generate.
For those interested in less traditional routes of publication, starting a blog on Wordpress is a promising—and potentially lucrative—option. Building a website from the ground up is complicated, and when you’re just starting out on your journey as a blogger, the convenience of hosting your writing on a premade site may outweigh the costs of relinquishing a portion of your ad revenue. (But if you're still interested in making your own site, you might want to look at the fourth hobby listed in this article.)
At the end of the day, though, I advise not thinking too much about money: You’re writing for fun, after all, so try to have fun.
#2 - Playing Chess
I remember sitting across the table from my brother every Friday after school let out, fingers hovering over the pawn I wanted to move. Our weekly game of chess was something we both looked forward to, a rare moment we could sit down and talk about the day over an intense battle of wits.
Regardless of whether you have someone to play with like I did, chess is a fantastic way to spend your time. As hobbies go, it’s one of the more intellectually enriching ones out there, exercising critical thinking skills and encouraging strategic thought in a single blow.
And it’s not just while you play that you’re benefiting: By taking time after a match to analyze your performance, you challenge yourself to come up with new strategies you can apply in the future against more difficult opponents.
And in today’s day and age, those opponents don’t necessarily need to be human. Mainstream chess sites offer a range of computerized players for you to test your skills against, from simple bots to AI with the prowess of grandmasters. If you’re especially determined, you can even make your own.
#3 - Reading
Few things are more relaxing than taking a break in the middle of a long day to read. I can’t count the times I’ve dropped by my local library just to browse the shelves, choosing titles at random to flip through. It’s how I’ve found some of my favorite stories, the bulk of which I remember to this day for their engaging plots and riveting characters.
Like writing, reading doesn’t take a whole lot to start doing. If you have access to the Internet, you can download ebooks by the millions at sites like Library Genesis and Project Gutenberg. Amazon, too, lists thousands of free titles—I usually search “0.00” if I want to browse them. You can also drop by your local library to find physical books for checkout.
In addition to being relaxing, reading can make you smarter. Devouring nonfiction gives you a heightened sense for what’s going on in the world, from ongoing political struggles to social issues that formed the basis, many decades ago, of the society in which you live. Fiction, too, stretches the mind: George R.R Martin’s novels expose you to the indefinite nature of good and evil, while Lemony Snicket’s show in clear color the value of sticking a chase through to its end.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out this article on themes in fiction and how they relate to your own life here if you want to learn more. (As a point of clarification, reading articles online totally counts as reading.)
#4 - Programming
If you’re bored and have access to a computer, you might consider trying your hand at programming.
The language you choose when you’re just starting out with programming isn’t of groundbreaking importance, but some of the most popular choices are Python and C. If you live near a community college, you could try enrolling in introductory courses for either language; alternatively, you could follow lesson plans published online by providers like Sololearn and Freecodecamp.
A word of warning: Before getting wrapped up too tightly in programming theory, which can get real complicated real fast, try writing a simple program to complete some task you find yourself doing again and again in the same way. It could be as simple as calculating the number of moles present in a sample of ideal gas given its pressure, volume, and temperature, or as complicated as balancing your budget. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination (and, to some extent, by your skill at searching Stack Overflow for a solution to the problem you want to solve), so take a crack at it and see what happens. The results will likely be good.
#5 - Baking
Alright, I’ll admit this one isn’t free. But it’s worth mentioning, I think, because of its versatility. With an oven, some ingredients, and a dash of creativity, you can bake just about anything you put your mind to.
Even if you've never baked a day in your life, it's easy to start. Sites like Supercook and Allrecipes can help you narrow in on the perfect recipe for your occasion, and others, like the Food Network, give exceptional tips to help you perfect your technique.