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Habits of Highly Creative People: Hobby Collecting

Habits of Highly Creative People: Hobby Collecting
Your hobbies can make you smarter.

Want to make yourself smarter? Master a new hobby.

Some people enjoy playing the guitar in their free time. Others enjoy studying foreign languages. Others like to play tennis or cook gourmet meals or paint watercolor landscapes. Whatever hobby you seriously pursue, you are teaching yourself a new set of skills that you will be able to use across every area of your life.

Some hobby collectors become polymaths.

Portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath, which basically means he was a genius.

We call someone who is multi-talented a polymath. A polymath is not someone who simply has numerous hobbies; rather, they excel and are an expert in each of those fields. Leonardo da Vinci is probably the most famous example (and his life inspired the synonym for polymath: a Renaissance Man). Da Vinci was a leader in the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture, mathematics, engineering, anatomy, geology, and cartography (to name just a few).

Of course, da Vinci is something of an anomaly. Most people only become skilled in one field; some have the willpower, focus, motivation, and talent to become skilled in two related fields; but it’s rare to become skilled in multiple unrelated fields.

Why can’t everyone be a polymath?

Unfortunately, you need to devote a tremendous amount of time to practice in order to become skilled in any one of your hobbies. Finding the time to practice can be incredibly difficult.  And if you want to master several different hobbies that means you need to double the practice time.

So if it’s ridiculously hard to become a polymath, does that mean we should specialize instead and only focus on improving our skills in one field? Should we just pick one hobby, rather than attempting to be a Renaissance man or Renaissance woman?

Surprisingly the answer is no. Even if you may not be able to become a world-class pianist and a brain surgeon and the world expert on ancient medieval art, that does not mean you should focus all of your energy in only one field.

In fact, having multiple hobbies can help you become more skilled in that one field where you have the most talent.

According to this fascinating article from CNN, “Your brain, it turns out, isn’t a fixed mass that shapes your behavior. Your behavior also shapes your brain. If a gardener takes up a serious interest in engineering, for instance, her neurons form new pathways between previously isolated regions.”

The article goes on to quote Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School: “It may well be a mistake to do just one thing. If you practice multiple things you actually get better at any one of those things.”

And that shines light on da Vinci’s success.

The skills he learned in one field were transferrable to the other fields, meaning that mastery in one field led to mastery in another.

Indeed, the CNN article points out: “In a study published in 2004 in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Rachael Seidler at the University of Michigan cast doubt on the traditional thinking that any motor skill we learn is limited to a particular context and task. She found instead that after having subjects learn five different motor skills using joysticks, ‘subjects exposed to a variety of motor learning paradigms may be able to acquire general, transferable knowledge about skill learning processes.’”

Little Known Hobbies of Successful People

Watercolor Painting by Ulysses S. Grant
A watercolor landscape painted by Ulysses S. Grant when he was just eighteen.

Several years ago, I visited West Point in Upstate New York. The military academy is home to the oldest military museum in the United States. While there, I had the opportunity to see several impressive paintings by West Point graduates. Did you know that Ulysses S. Grant was a skilled watercolor painter? At West Point, he studied painting under Robert Walter Weir (who also taught the famous James Whistler). By practicing with watercolor and pen-and-ink landscapes, Grant strengthened his artistic talent and also became a skilled military cartographer. This undoubtedly aided him when he became the commander of the Union army during the Civil War.

Grant is not the only famous person who became highly skilled at a hobby.

Lewis Carroll (his real name was Charles Dodgson) is now famous for his Alice in Wonderland stories, but literature was actually his side hobby while he pursued a career as a mathematician and logician (he was also a talented photographer).

Academy award winning actor Jimmy Stewart  was fascinated by aviation as a young boy. He earned a Private Pilot certificate and a Commercial Pilot certificate and had flown over 400 miles before the U.S. entered WWII. As an expert pilot, Stewart ended up rising to the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Air Force Reserves.

The CNN article observes: “Science is showing evidence for what some have long felt are the benefits of cross-training your brain. Ask Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, why his undergraduate training in nuclear propulsion systems remains indispensable. ‘I’m not applying those exact skills every day, but it taught me ways to think through problems – visualizing, conceptualizing – that I do use every day,’ he told Fortune last year. ‘Your mind touches on these resources and you’re not even conscious of it.’”

Choose Your Hobbies Carefully

Girl Jumping Her Horse
Because we are passionate about our hobbies, we enjoy devoting time to practicing them.
Importantly, the article stresses that “to strengthen those neural pathways, however, we have to repeatedly do something…Leafing through a how-to book on nuclear propulsion systems won’t do it.”

Thus, the best hobbies are those where we are figuratively (and sometimes literally) getting our hands dirty, practicing skills that we can transfer to other areas of our life. Of course, as the lives of Jimmy Stewart and Ulysses S. Grant demonstrated, sometimes one never knows when the skills one learns for a hobby will come in handy. And sometimes, as Lewis Carroll discovered, a hobby can in fact become one’s career.

Ultimately, hobbies give us a constructive way to redeem our time while also having fun. Hobbies make us well-rounded individuals who are able to converse on a wide range of topics, and they teach us invaluable skills.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a hobby you enjoy? Think about the skills you have learned from your hobby and how they’ve helped you in other areas of your life.

It’s never too late to pick up a new hobby. Why not find something you’re passionate about and start becoming a hobby collector today?

By Nicole Bianchi

Nicole Bianchi is the founder of Inkwell Scholars. Find out more here.

12 replies on “Habits of Highly Creative People: Hobby Collecting”

Excellent article. As a hobby collector myself I no longer feel guilty for all the time I thought I “wasted”. Thanks, Nicole

Thanks for reading & commenting! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the article and good to know there are other hobby collectors out there.

This is a wonderful article. The article touched on many of the habits I began as a child from collecting stamps, coins, photography and drawing. i realized I had to focus on one because of the time that went into each hobby. It was that focus and concentration that helped me with other aspects of my life. Thank you for sharing.

I want to recommend a book.

What Makes You Great? Uplifting New Book Inspires Readers to Fight through Adversity & Pursue Life’s Greatest Dreams.
Written by Tasha Hoggatt, ‘What Makes You Great?’ serves as a guide to staying on track during faith-testing times. Urging readers to create opportunities for themselves and pursue them no matter what curveballs life throws, the book is resonating with readers from all walks of life.
For Immediate Release

Los Angeles, CA – At some point in life, everyone loses faith in themselves and their aspirations. Nobody knows this better than California’s Tasha Hoggatt, who unexpectedly lost her brother when she was just twenty two years-old. The book, What Makes You Great? is semi autobiography. When Tasha Hoggatt brother passed away, it was the hardest and the most difficult experience she had to overcome. As an experience that shaped her life on many levels, Hoggatt has a unique perspective on others experiencing similar plight. In an effort to help everyone at their time of need, Hoggatt has compiled all she has learned about following her dreams into a potentially life-changing new book.

‘What Makes You Great?’ is more than a self-help book; it’s a blueprint to living the fullest life possible, even when darkness overshadows all light.


The goal of the book is to inspire others who can create an opportunity for themselves, to follow their dreams. Please read this book often to help you stay focused. In this life, we do not have the luxury to live to 500 years old. We are lucky to live to 90. With that said, we should make every second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year count. It is important to always move in the direction that will bring you closer to realizing your dreams and living a positive life.

Avoid emotionally and mentally negative situations and thought patterns, so you can make the best out of your life and others around you. Put your family first building a foundation of love and respect. A family is a group of individuals living under the same roof, united by certain convictions and common affiliation, the basic and various social units in society. A unit that should be valued!

As the author explains, while her own life experiences seemed unique, she became acutely aware that everyone suffers their own personal times of need.

“I wrote the book, What Makes You Great? because I have seen both friends and family due to difficult experience lose faith in themselves. In turn, they give up on their dream and put aside many of the aspirations that will make their life better aside. Our dreams are the blueprint of our life that we need to pursue. It gives us confidence in our ability to achieve anything,” says Hoggatt.

Continuing, “The book is broken up in seven sections. It is an easy read. It is important because at one point, we all lose our faith or at least are dangling. It is great to have a guide or an avenue so to stay on track. It is important to pursue dreams. It is good for our souls, humanity, each other, our relationship and the world. Love, respect and peace.”

Since its release, the book has garnered a string of rave reviews with over 7,500 copies sold. For example, one reader commented that, “This is a must read!! If you are looking for something uplifting this is the book for you! I’m really glad I came across this great book. It definitely gives you a new found perspective on life.” Another reader stated, “I like the chapter on the importance of association and negative vs. positive thinking. This book can be considered a mental detox.”

With its popularity expected to soar, interested readers are urged to purchase their copies as soon as possible.

‘What Makes You Great?’ is available now:

I’m Deepak from india,

most of the time, I got irritated, when my friends say “don’t taste all , just stick with one”..but having multiple hobbyssss made me creative thinker and a writer toooo … is very helpfull…

Hi, Deepak! Thank you for your comment! Yes, having multiple hobbies makes us more creative. I am happy to hear that you found the blog post helpful. 🙂

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