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Creative outlets for the chronically bored

Updated on November 22, 2011

Got some time to kill? Here are a few fun and easy ways to fend off boredom, while expanding your creative horizons. Try one or all, but be careful. Some of them can quickly become addictive, and I am not aware of any support groups for hobby addiction.

Several years ago I found myself unable to work, for medical reasons. Fortunately, insurance was able to cover most of my bills. On the surface, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to spend more time with my family. But with the kids in school and my wife at work, I had countless hours to kill in a quiet empty house.

Sounds like a dream come true, right? Turns out, daytime tv is a veritable entertainment desert, dotted with the occasional oasis on the history channel. And you can only vacuum a tiny house just so many times. Usually by 9 a.m., I found myself asking "what can I do now?".

I had spent several years working obscene amounts of hours ( many weeks I logged over a hundred hours at work), and I had precious little time for anything else. With all this new found "leisure" time, I needed to find a hobby before I lost my mind.

Idle hands are the Devil's workshop

That's what my mother always said. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that it makes for a very long day. With this in mind, I set about trying things that I had always found interesting, but never had time for.

First on the list was learning to play guitar. I had spent much of my youth as a professional musician, so this seemed like a natural choice. I even had an old electric guitar that I had bought and never taken out of the box.

If you are going to teach yourself, as I did, You will quickly find that you need some resources. Chord charts and tablature are easy enough to find online, but these are some of the resources that I found helpful. You may have to get past the ads to get to the free stuff, though.

Tuning your giutar

How to read tablature

Free chords

The list goes on...

My biggest problem is that when I get good at something, I get bored with it. As I am a fairly quick learner, and I had lots of time on my hands, It only took a few months to learn enough to master any songs that struck my fancy, and the guitar went right back in the closet.

Over the course of two years, I went through several hobbies in this manner, and it occurred to me that I was probably not the only person in this boat. So I have compiled a short list of hobbies that I have tried, which you may not have considered. Most of them are fairly inexpensive to start out, and not too difficult to learn.

First up is writing. Obviously you have considered this one, or you wouldn't be on Hubpages. I thought I would mention it, since it is my most recent hobby, and almost free to get started. If you're not already a member of Hubpages, I highly recommend it. You can write about just about anything you like, and have the opportunity to learn from some of the finest and friendliest people you are likely to meet. Just click here to sign up for free.

Next is wood carving. This is a hobby best saved for the warmer months unless you have a heated workshop, or you enjoy vacuuming wood shavings out of your rugs. I usually just sit on my front porch and whittle a la Jed Clampett.

You can spend as little as 15 or 20 dollars to get started with a basic carving knife, and a couple of patterns. As you progress, you can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on equipment and supplies.

My first project was a fish, but you can find patterns for just about any subject matter, or just carve whatever inspires you. The only instruction I was able to get came in the form of the sage words of wisdom of the craft store owner from whom I bought my supplies. I quote: "You take this here piece of wood, and you cut off anything that don't look like a fish." That turned out to be fair advice. As the non-fishy wood came off, I was left with pretty nice looking blue gill. If you learn how to airbrush, you can add a lot of realism to your creations, but that's a whole other hobby.

It's not all that difficult to find free patterns for woodcarving online. You may be on your own in the instruction department, but I think it's more fun to discover things on my own, anyway.

If you stick with it, you can carve pretty much anything your mind can dream up. Whether you are interested in relief carving, or freehand whittling there is sure to be something to hold your interest for a while.

The blurry picture above (my camera is not very good) is of my first project. It came with my starter kit, and took about 8 hours to complete.

The pictures below, are some of the free patterns I found at the Tandy leather website. If you browse this site, you can find everything you need to get started. If there is a Tandy location near you, they also offer affordable classes.

Over the years, leathercraft has evolved from the simple wallet and belt designs with which you are probably most familiar. The most skilled artists are doing sculpture, and even portraits.

As you hone your skills, this hobby can become addictive. Regardless your of level of expertise, there are always more difficult and complex patterns to explore. If you get very good, you don't even need patterns. I have found that if you can trace a photo onto leather, you can carve a fairly accurate reproduction.

Variety, and versatility are the main reasons that I have not abandonned this hobby, even after five years.

Get into leather

Leathercraft is one of the more rewarding hobbies I have tried. After you finish your project, you can do more than just put it on the table and admire your handywork. I would look pretty silly carrying a wooden fish around with me, but my wallet (my first project in leather) has endured several years of abuse, and still looks pretty good.

The only limitation is your imagination, and the amount of time you wish to devote. As you become more proficient, you may find that people become interested in purchasing the items that you make. I have had many people ask to buy my leather projects, as well as my wood carvings. I think with a little hard work and ambition, you could probably even carve out a niche on Ebay.

Go fish

Last on the list,for now, is fishing. It's not exactly a creative outlet, but it is, by far, my most enduring hobby. Your choices are nearly limitless as far as equipment. This will largely depend on what type of fish you plan to pursue.

For the beginner, I recommend basic bobber fishing. This gives you the opportunity to watch the fish as they react to your bait, and learn to watch for subtle signs that a fish is interested.

In addition, fishing allows you to relax and enjoy the beauty around you. For me, catching fish is often secondary to watching the drama that is nature unfold before me.

Catch and release should be the order of the day. I'm not against keeping a few fish for dinner, but I think it's wise to throw some back for the next angler to enjoy.

Even if you catch the elusive "fishzilla", there's no need to kill it to hang on your wall. With photos and a few accurate measurements, a skilled taxidermist can fabricate a perfect replica for the wall, while your trophy catch swims on to grow even larger.

Have fun!

I believe that if you possess any creativity whatsoever, it can be adapted across many artistic media. You may not be the next DaVinci, but a little patience brings great rewards. Above all else, have fun with it. If you become aggravated by slow progress, it's not relaxing anymore.

If you have an interesting hobby that I haven't mentioned, I'd love to hear about it. Sooner or later I'm going to be in the market for a new one. I always seem to end up in that boat. Hmm.Maybe I should try my hand at boat building next. I've just found some free boat plans, and summer is on the way!


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