collection of instagram images with a variety of lego minifigures
As business owners, it's about the hustle: how can we monetize what we love? But what if, instead, you created something for the sake of being creative?

What’s your joy?

I want to tell you about my son.

Patrick has been a Lego super fan his entire life. He collects, researches and builds all the sets. His real hobby, though, are Lego minifigures. My kid seemingly knows all of the the history, availability and specialness of Lego’s minifigs through the years. One of his favorite things to do is create his own versions (“mods”) of minifigures. Now in his 20s, Patrick has elevated this to an artform.

Patrick has always posted his minifig creation on Tumblr. He’s had a popular blog and I understand his posts are shared widely. Knowing one of the key demographics for minifigures consists of kids and teens, Patrick will even track down reposts on blogs with over-18 content and kindly request they remove the repost (only one person has ever been a jerk about it, most completely understand).

Six months ago, Patrick joined Instagram to post his custom creations. I don’t follow him on Tumblr (I haven’t used that platform for years), but it’s been really cool following him on Instagram. He works hard to take high-quality pictures and to embrace his particular fandoms (Star Wars, Batman and DC comics with other video games and television shows thrown in). Aside from showing custom and purist (minifigs created with only official Lego parts and decals) creations, Patrick makes sure to include interesting information or facts about the subject in his captions. He takes requests, answers questions and replies honestly to comments.

Three images from Instagram featuring five different minifigures.

Following him I’ve been amazed. In six months, he got almost 1,000 followers and a lot of interactions on every post. His likes per image run in the 150-300 range for every post. One post from a few months ago has over 6,000 likes.

I, of course, have suggested several times over the years that this is something he could monetize (selling customs). He resists that idea every single time I suggest it.

What? But he could make some spending cash!

I know, right? He has had people ask to purchase customs. He probably wouldn’t make a living, but he could definitely support his habit. Every time I suggest it though, Patrick says no for one simple reason: It’s something he does because he enjoys it, not because he wants to make money and he doesn’t want to stop enjoying it because he has to make money.

Needless to say, I’ve stopped suggesting he monetize. Instead, I’m jealous of his natural Instagram savvy (that feels like a post for another day).

What brings you joy?

Watching Patrick create for the sheer joy of creating mirrors the joy I get from my own hobby. I tell people that knitting isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle choice. Whether I’m dreamily browsing through patterns, working on my own projects or hoarding beautiful yarn, knitting shows up in so many aspects of my life. Like Patrick, I have no desire to monetize my knitting. Instead, my knitting is something I do for my own wellbeing.

Three images from Instagram featuring nine different minifigures for Women's History Month.

As a small business owner, I spend a lot of my time asking how I can improve my business. How can I attract new clients? Adjust my processes? Continue improving? It’s about moving forward even when life sometimes pushes me back.

But as a creative, sometimes I need to do something that simply brings me joy. Not something for my business or as a revenue stream, but a process that allows me to be creative and artistic while focusing on something besides my business.

A while back—shortly after the last time I suggested Patrick monetize his minifigs, actually—I saw an article about this exact topic, “Why We Should Stop Turning Hobbies into Jobs.” One paragraph has stuck with me,

That’s not to say there isn’t joy to be found in turning something you love into your life’s work—it’s just to say that it’s okay to love a hobby the same way you’d love a pet; for its ability to enrich your life without any expectation that it will help you pay the rent. What would it look like if monetising {sic} a hobby was downgraded from the ultimate path to one path? What if we allowed ourselves to devote our time and attention to something just because it makes us happy? Or, better yet, because it enables us to truly recharge instead of carving our time into smaller and smaller pieces for someone else’s benefit?

Since reading this article, I’ve tried to see my knitting (and Patrick’s minifig creation) as a way to simply recharge. Especially recently, I make sure to carve space out of my week to knit a complicated project (one that requires more focus and forces my brain to be occupied by something else) as well as working on mindless knits while I do something else (Zoom meetings anyone?). I’ve notice that I’m better at my own work when I allow my creative wings to spread in different directions.

How about you? As you dedicate so much of yourself to building your business, how are you finding time to recharge and let your mind wander?


4 thoughts on “What’s your joy?”

  1. Trish Samletzka

    I think both you and Patrick are so right to keep your creative hobbies just that. I don’t have a business, but I do need thing’s to enrich my life. To look at and say, “I did that”, sometimes with a chuckle. Only because some of the thing’s I do are a little humorous, some are on the more serious side.

    I like to do crafts. Give me a block of wood, like a plaque, or the end of a 2×4, and I’ll do something with it. Whether it be wisecrack, humor, direction. Writing is another thing that brings me joy. If I get a thought to write about, I have to write it down right away. If I lose the thought, I lose the writing. I can always come back to the thought later. But I don’t think I would want to feel the enormous pressure of trying to make a living from it.

    By the way, I really wish you would sell some things. You just have a natural ability to knit such great pieces! Just as Patrick ha a natural ability to do his lego minifigs. (spelling)????Yeah, I could never make a living writing.

    1. Thanks Trish. I agree about the satisfaction of “I did that!”

      Honestly, I think I’d price myself right out of selling my knitting. When the yarn alone is $30, when you add in the dozens of hours at any reasonable rate (I’m a slow knitter), no one is going to spend that much on a hat or shawl!

      1. Trish Samletzka

        I understand Jenni. I used to crochet, and it takes time. With my hands now, I could maybe do something small. Couldn’t make myself let go of all my crochet hooks though. No, no, no. Have a great day.

  2. That was a really cool post, Jenni. I admire Patrick’s self-awareness and wisdom. It’s so important to find what gives you life and what allows you to create just for the joy of it! That’s the way it is with my photography. I just love playing with images.

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