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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Commentary: Hobbyists are essential for innovation

Senior+Kaylee+Maietta+writes+about+why+hobbyists+are+essential+to+creative+fields+and+encourages+fellow+hobbyists+to+be+proud+of+their+innovative+pursuits.+
Cole Jackson
Senior Kaylee Maietta writes about why hobbyists are essential to creative fields and encourages fellow hobbyists to be proud of their innovative pursuits.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest commentary. The opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.

A school like Ithaca College is full of creative people, and such artistic interests and talents are not confined to majors. Many schools that celebrate the arts are full of students who appreciate all kinds of arts but only major in one. However, an unspoken barrier infiltrates our lives and conversations: If a creative interest is not your main pursuit, then your opinion on such topics is not valid. This rule isn’t made by creative professionals, nor is it always enforced by them. Often it’s oneself who shuts down the conversation before we start it — close ourselves off before we can potentially be judged or embarrassed.

Hobbyists suffer in perfectionist and professional culture, and the lack of discussion surrounding the topic is one of the main reasons why. As someone who grew up with an appreciation for sitcoms and movies that earned me the “old soul” label, I was always fascinated by what choices shows made and the results of choices, as well as the cultural impact of shows. 

When I decided to write a commentary, I first considered writing about the effect of the reboot and revival resurgence. However, I immediately shut myself down. How could I, someone studying corporate communication, possibly speak about television and not be judged or turned away? 

I have no screenwriting or Television & Digital Media Production background to use to validate my opinion to others. No one said this to me, but I know for sure I have not been alone in such thoughts. The jokes about being judged by a “film bro” archetype are said too often to always be in jest. This idea that hobbyists cannot be proud of their creative interests or further artistic discussions is both false and harmful.

I was recently talking with a very musically talented friend who lamented that it felt impossible to join a band or a music group on campus when there are hundreds of students here learning music professionally. It’s not as if music hobbyists are banned, but there is a cultural phenomenon where people feel like they can’t be creative or share their creations when they’re not experts. Whether we gatekeep our own creativity or others, it is detrimental to a culture of innovation and creativity.

Often, people with casual interests have great insights that lie outside the typical academic views. For example, when I watch TV, I consider more than just plot and camera angles. I think about the show’s marketing tactics, how the brand interacts with fans and what impact the show has had on pop culture. Not everyone who loves TV examines the same creative aspects. 

When the culture of creative excellence prevents amateur creatives from taking part in the conversation, we lose out on unique insights, like the history major who knows centuries-old references in a band’s album, or the film major who can imagine the soundtrack that would match their next script. If people who do not study a particular creative career do not join in the conversation, then all we have are people who are learning the same things contributing to a medium. It’s the integration of everyone’s ideas and unique backgrounds that lead to new insights and innovations. 

Hobbies are outlets for stress and often used as a form of self-care. By participating in an activity that one enjoys, the person can improve their mental health, but right now, many hobbyists are burning out. They close off parts of themselves from the larger public because they feel like they have to earn the right to have an opinion on it. In the long run, it removes the fun of a hobby because people are constantly striving for perfection. When that happens, we lose the potential for new ideas and new conversations, and the hobbyist loses a mechanism for stress relief and joy. This needs to change. We must encourage hobbyists to share their interests rather than dismiss them for lack of expertise.

We are a community of creators: artists, musicians, singers, actors, writers and more, but we are not singular. When we share our casual interests and our professions, true innovation is born. When we gatekeep our creativity, we are doing more harm than good. Hobbyists and casual creatives must be more outwardly proud of their passions and share them with the world. Everyone will be better off for it.

Kaylee Maietta (she/her) is a senior communication management and design major. Contact her at [email protected].

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