Amanda’s last post and the talk about RR amateur theatricals got me thinking. I’m not much into acting but there are other things I love to do as an amateur: various crafts and music. I play a Lithuanian folk instrument, the kankles (pictured below) and also play piano “a little” in the tradition of Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Eyre. Since my kids took up violin and piano I’ve been having a blast being a music mom, helping them as they practice and playing duets and trios with them.

Of course, all sorts of arts and crafts, amateur theatricals and music-making were popular among the upper classes during the Regency. Without the media we have now, they needed to find something to do in the evening. Jane Austen took music lessons into her twenties and carefully copied music into books she used to entertain herself and her family. These music books have inspired several recordings. I own one: Jane’s Hand: The Jane Austen Songbooks. Click here to listen to some tracks.

I get the feeling that many people nowadays do not do as much in the way of amateur art as they did in the past. We’ve got such easy access to professional quality art and music that perhaps we wonder if there’s any point in making our own. But I think there’s something special about doing it yourself, even if it will never bring money or fame. There are venues for amateurs: community theatre, church choirs, etc… and you meet some interesting people that way, too.

Now that I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, I’ve met some local writers who are just having fun with it and not thinking seriously about publication at this stage. At a get together at our local B&N one of them confessed that her husband thought she was crazy for trying to write a novel. I asked her if he would have had the same reaction had she decided to take up piano or pottery lessons. We realized that for some reason a lot of people don’t understand writing for fun. People who wouldn’t think of asking a beginning guitarist when their first gig will be will ask a newbie writer when the book is coming out. It’s as if they don’t realize that it takes time to learn or that the process itself is rewarding.

I’ve always been career-oriented but my best writing happens when I pretend to be an amateur, when I shut off thoughts of the industry and write to please myself. I also think that my amateur craft and music activities are good for my muse–a chance to be creative without the pressure that seems to come with the writing.

So anyway, here’s to the amateurs out there! Let us know who you are and what you do. What do people think of your hobbies? How do you respond?