Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Fiddling and Keeping it Fresh

I hosted a conference at the Sundance ski resort last week for 30 of my academic colleagues who also study meaningful work (people as wonderful as they are smart!). At dinner Friday night, a few of us were talking about hobbies. Brodie, a tall, sunny, and thoroughly charming PhD student from Case Western University listened quietly until I said to him, "well, as a doctoral student, I'll bet you don't have time for anything other than reading and writing."

"Actually," he said, "I started fiddling this year."

My jaw dropped. How could someone begin a new hobby - not to mention a new musical instrument - during an all-consuming PhD program?

Brodie explained that when he gets tired of his scholarly work, there is a temptation to turn on the TV. But watching TV drains his energy and intellect. So instead, he takes 15 minutes to play some bluegrass. It calms him, engages his creativity, and sends him back to work feeling rested and sharp.

I've mentioned in previous posts that even your calling in life can bring occasional drudgery and frustration. But it took a bright, balanced 20-something to teach me that passion builds on passion, and that we can gain energy and creative boosts by blending our avocations with our vocation.

What hobbies or interests energize you? Are you making time for them in your life?

Maybe I'll talk in a later post about a new pursuit that has thoroughly energized me. But for now, I'll close with the Brodie principle: Fiddle to keep work fresh!


  1. Your suggestion in class to do things other than grad school to do's is actually one of the main things that kept me going. If I hadn't been doing things like reading or voice lessons, I would have lost sight of the big picture and perhaps lost ground in my attempts to have a "growth mindset"....I like that you call this the Brodie principle.

  2. I create. With color. My mediums include:
    Fabric (I love to design quilts.)
    Colored Pencils.
    Yarn. (Crochet/Knitting)
    Glue and Glitter.

    The rest of the time I am a Stay-At-Home, Homeschooling Mom of two young boys... though we rarely seem to be at home.

    I too find my days go better when I make time to be creative, just for myself.

  3. I love this! And the thing about TV - so true. What a great idea to do something else that lifts and energizes instead.

  4. At the risk of turning into a fawning admirer who always simply rubber stamps whatever you say, I have to say, "I wholeheartedly agree!" There are things I do, like gardening, that don't require my mind and yet engage my hands in something different. The simple shift of focus actually clears my thinking about problems related to my work. I watch almost no TV/movies and haven't for years (there's something wrong with that grammar) and I'm restless to sit down in front of that screen. It won't let me think, and what a waste that has come to be. Thank you for sharing Brodie with us!

  5. True confessions. While I fully subscribe to the Brodie principle, and I don't watch a lot of TV, I must admit that sometimes I just want to shut the brain down and let the box entertain me. I try to be judicious, though, and not let my brain turn to jelly!