You work 40 hours a week or so.  You have responsibilities at home.  But unless you’re nuts, you have some time each evening to yourself.  And since you’re reading this column, I’ll go out on a limb and say you’re spending some of that time playing guitar.

Maybe you like to write your own songs.  Maybe you like to blow off steam by putting on your old Led Zep records and playing along with them.  Maybe you like to turn on your amp, sit down with your guitar, play all 5 licks that you know, and then turn off your amp and go watch TV.

You can spend your time however you want.   I give myself permission to do whatever I want with my “hobby” time.  I have several interests.  I like to pick up one of my guitars and play whatever comes into my head.  Sometimes I’ll come up with a cool riff or melody and I’ll record it using Voice Memos on my iPhone.  Those are automatically synced to my computer for when I want to use those ideas as a starting point for writing a song.  I capture stuff that way all the time.  I might also choose to work on one of my guitars, either improving it or just maintaining it.  I’ve been learning how to do fretwork for a while now.  I’ve done about 4 level/crowns and 3 refrets, and I’m almost not terrible at it.  I’m getting better every time, and I look forward to the next time, which they say is a good sign.

But I’m going to propose that it’s a bad idea to just give yourself permission to do whatever you want during hobby time.  Here’s why: You are sacrificing something good or great for instant gratification, and you are risking some minor bouts of depression.  Here’s why…

We are wired to desire completion.  Humans wouldn’t still be around if we weren’t.  We strive to improve things, to learn new things, to be productive, to complete things, and we feel a sense of accomplishment when we complete a project.  And when we don’t, it’s a loose end in our subconscious.  For anyone who has read David Allen’s best-seller “Getting Things Done,” you should recognize that vocabulary.  Your subconscious mind is always thinking about things without you realizing it.  And when you have a loose end, like an unfinished fret job or song, your subconscious will be thinking about it.  This can actually create some stress, and sometimes you might not even realize it.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to put serious pressure on yourself for a hobby you enjoy.  If it starts becoming something you dread, you’re doing it wrong.  But the opposite of that is to pick up the guitar, play the same 5 riffs you played a decade ago, then put it back down.  If you don’t push yourself a little bit, you won’t have as much fun.  The trick is finding the balance.  Only you can figure that out.  But my advice is to sit down and look at what you’ve been doing with your hobby, then set at least one reasonable goal.  And then achieve it.  And then set another one.  If you don’t have any goal, you’re going to wind up picking up your guitar one day and getting depressed and putting it back down.  If you know 5 licks, go on YouTube and learn a 6th.  Or finish that lyric or song or fret job.

(Image – Me at my CD Release Party for “Every Single Day.”  Releasing a CD is a huge goal, but a great one.)