Screen capture of Scrabble tiles from the film Sneakers spelling the words SETEC ASTRONOMY
What does it mean?

Language is a lot of fun. English, in particular, can be a real hoot when you really dig into it. I may be biased, since it’s the only language I know, but I think it’s obvious that English has a bunch of inscrutable rules, non-rules, and conventions that make it entertaining. Among those idiosyncrasies I enjoy are collective nouns. Those weird names for groups of things (usually animals) that sometimes make sense and often make us scratch our heads about “How did they come up with that?” I’m not talking about the boring ones like flock and litter or even a pod (as in whales). I’m talking about the ones that have an opinion and actually describe what they’re collecting. Classic example: a murder of crows. It just evokes something about a group of black birds that gather to fight over the scraps of french fries and discarded corn nuts we leave all over the parking lots and sidewalks. Another, just as well known: a gaggle of geese. It’s perfect. I even had a minor brush with geek celebrity1when I solicted input on what a group of mephits should be called when working on a writing project:

A pest of mephits is perfect! It says something about what a group of mephits would be like, which a boring word like herd or pack just wouldn’t capture.

Why am I going on about collective nouns? I found myself in need of one the other day, as I considered topics about which I could write. I know! I told myself. I can write about all the hobbies I don’t have time for! In the process of pulling those threads together in my head, I realized I needed a word that could refer to them as a group, and evoke the feelings of abandonment and wistfulness I imagined them to have. I couldn’t find one on the internet (thanks for nothing, Internet) so I started to brainstorm my own. I never really found anything that felt perfect, but I decided to settle on neglect. A neglect of hobbies. Neglection? See, I can’t even decide right now. Neglection is actually a noun already, so let’s go with that. Bonus that it bounces off of “collection”.2

Introducing my current Neglection of Hobbies

In no particular order of preference or importance, here are all the hobbies I can’t find or make the time for, including the things I haven’t even made the time to start but I find interesting enough to think about:

  • Miniature painting
  • Playing video games
  • Playing board games
  • Playing tabletop roleplaying games
  • Writing
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Watching movies
  • Watching TV
  • Talking about TV and Movies
  • Reading
  • Knife throwing
  • Camping/backpacking
  • Podcasting (not including the one that comes out every Monday)
  • Woodworking (ish? I mean, building some things, but nothing fancy.)
  • Cross-stitch
  • Any sort of general model-making or crafting
  • Making music/playing an instrument

One might argue that some of these things aren’t proper “hobbies”. I mean, is watching TV a “hobby”, per se? It can be. Especially if you want to share your thoughts about it and publish those thoughts. I don’t want to get into the weeds discussing what the actual definition a hobby is, but in general I think of it as a activity that interests and occupies my mind without being relied upon to put food on the table. It also usually involves developing some kind of skill, some sort of expression or art.

Time is the fire in which we burn

Where am I going with all this? Nowhere, and fast. Time is a finite resource, and portioning it out to my neglection is a zero-sum game. If I spend time on drawing, I’m not writing. If I’m writing, I’m not out in the backyard throwing knives at the target I haven’t taken the time to build yet. I get hobby-locked and end up doing whatever is easiest: usually sitting on the couch with my iPad watching YouTube.

I’m not getting any younger, either. Every day, every hour, every minute I’m not spending on developing skills in one of my hobbies is time I’ll never have again. Wow. Way to keep things nice and light, right? I thought we were just chatting about hobbies and stuff, not contemplating our mortality and the futility of…everything.

It’s cool, though, because the realization that time is precious is a gift. I don’t sweat it too much if I don’t draw or write or paint today. We have the time we have, and we use it the best we can. I acknowledge and embrace the fact that I’ll never have the time to do everything. Do I think it would be fun to do these things more regularly? Sure. But sometimes there just isn’t time or room in my stack of obligations to indulge myself. Maybe tomorrow, maybe not. It’s fine. The low stakes of a hobby are part of what make them fun.

Ultimately, I still try to squeeze in time to make things, because I believe that’s one of the reasons we’re all here to begin with. Nature is full of beauty, but people make beauty. Even a small amount of time spent creating something that didn’t exist before has real, tangible value. So I’ll keep struggling to motivate myself, and do my best to add value to the world in a way that there wasn’t before.


  1. Mike Mearls is the co-creator of D&D 5th edition, and D&D franchise creative director. 

  2. Is a “negelction of hobbies” a good collective noun? Let me know what you think. Or just, you know, let me know that you’re reading this. I get tired of broadcasting myself out to the world and (what feels like) begging to be noticed. So if you’re reading this, and I’m touching on anything interesting to you, send me an email! Or tweet me! Say “hi”. 

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