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Like most creatives, I have a day job. One of my tasks there involves writing transcripts for the company podcast. This week, my boss spoke about hobbies. In her life, she has considered 'hobby' a dirty word. When you are an artist trying to be taken seriously and people refer to your art as a 'hobby,' it can make you touchy.

Now, she is highly successful and runs an online art school with over 5,000 students globally. Her problem now isn't getting the credit she deserves. These days, she strives to find ways to avoid burnout.

Enter, hobbies.

Hobbies, Charla suggests, differ from your main 'hustle' in that they are projects that allow you to pursue them in a casual way. That freedom, as much as anything else, means that hobbies bring the participant joy.

Listening to the podcast, I had to admit, I could relate. When I was 21 and discussing potential career paths with a family friend, he summed up my list of suggestions (photographer, writer, musician) with one statement. "Leigh," he said, "You have too many hobbies." Well, I have now earned income from every one of those passions at some point in my life. Back then, though, I used to joke, "I wish God had made me an accountant!"

It has taken a lot of years for me to first accept and then embrace the reality that creativity is fundamental to who I am. Every personality test or job aptitude test I have ever taken has reiterated this truth. Yet, it was only within the last ten years when I sat back and thought, huh, those tests said I should be a musician, a writer, a photographer, an interior designer... and I have done all those things. Also, I love all those things. Maybe instead of fighting it, I should embrace the real me.

That was when things in my life started to blossom. That is why, in the last 4 years, I have published 16 books (and have a couple more written and ready to go). When you stop fighting it, you get 'er done.

Still, as I listened to Charla's dodging of burnout, I related to that, as well. I've written the books, edited the books, formatted the books, created covers for the books, published, marketed, sold books, written newsletters, interacted with readers, done research, traveled, taken photographs, created Book Trailer videos, created and updated the website, made sales announcements, recorded audiobooks (not finished that one yet lol), run a freelance editing business, and all of this while also holding down my job, staying involved with my family and friends, and all the things people do.

In the process, I've learned a couple of things. First, people have muses for a reason. You can only sit on a couch and churn out books for so long. Eventually, you have to get back out into the world and find new ideas. Second, for me, if I am not creative in one way, creativity slides out of me in a different direction. Charla would call that hobby. This summer, I called it renovating!

If you read my newsletters, you know that this year I started with renovating my bathroom, moved to my daughter's room (now my spare room), worked my way outside to some repairs and to building patio furniture made from pallets, and then came back indoors to my bedroom. There, the pallet creations continued. I built a curtain 'rod' thingy out of stained pallets with hooks for the curtain panels. Then I created photo mounts for some of my favourite photographs. Since my walls are a warm, rosy brown and one wall is red brick, the addition of the pallets turned my cozy room into an unexpectedly rustic retreat.


There was one thing I thought could finish it off. I could build a trunk (out of pallets) for the foot of my bed. That would be the perfect addition to tie the entire room together.

I almost decided not to go to the effort. It hadn't been long enough from my other projects for me to forget how pallet wood causes slivers in abundance, or to forget how much I dislike slivers.

On Facebook, there was a woman selling a wood trunk with horses painted on it. That would have worked, except, I had a bit of a tiff with my son the morning I was planning to go buy the trunk, and I dealt with our little moment with retail therapy. Also, being slightly upset, I miscalculated how much I'd spent. By the end of the afternoon, I was feeling slightly sick to my stomach over the impulse buying and decided my bank account was cut off.

I'd be making the trunk.

Never having held anything more complex than a hammer prior to this summer, I started by scoping out Pinterest for inspiration and YouTube for directions. It turns out, there is more than one way to make a chest. I chose the one which first created a frame, and then screwed the planks into said frame.

Well, actually I started by borrowing a crowbar from my father and prying out all the planks from the frame of the pallet. My son then very sweetly removed all the nails from the boards for me (forgiven!). Then I went to Home Depot and spent a whopping $7 on 1x1 inch boards which I had to drive home with one end sticking out of the car window since they were too long to fit into the uber roomy interior of Baby Car (Hyundai Accent). I also spent $20 (!!!) on screws. Who knew screws cost so much?

I got home, and spent a couple of weeks studying the planks and doing math calculations in my head and then redoing them to be sure, and then one sunny Saturday, I decided I had to trust my math skills.... and I cut the boards with my circular saw. Next, I built the frame, which, as it turned out, is not straight. Not even remotely. But then again, that is one thing I've learned about working with pallet wood -- it might be free, but it is hardly uniform. If you are going to build stuff out of pallets, you better be prepared to be flexible with your calculations and learn to problem solve and think outside of the diameters of the box.

The next step was to sand the pallet planks. Even with an electric palm sander, this is my least favourite stage of the projects. I am sliver adverse. Also known as a wimp. But, I did it, and then I stained the wood and left it to dry overnight. And let me just say before moving on, when sanding, do not wear good clothes, or bare legs, and do wear glasses. I was covered head to toe in grey wood dust. The shower that took care of that did not solve the itch in my eyes!

Sunday morning found my project -- which I'd left outdoors -- covered in dew. Oops. By noon, I was back at the table, and this was the day to screw the planks onto the frame.

This sounds pretty basic. It wasn't. Wood was splitting, and there were knots, and some of it took more than one attempt, and the drill was freaking heavy, and... when the front of the chest was fully paneled, it looked -- and felt -- amazing! So worth it!

I don't know how the experts do things, but I screwed in this order: front, back, side, side, bottom. Then I built a lid.

I measured the number of planks, and I took a moment to order them into a pattern I liked. I selected which side would go up. I sanded, stained, and then I decided to build up the chest frame so that it was elevated just enough for my lid to rest evenly on all sides. Then I cut a separate pallet plank into three parts. This plank needed to be long enough to span the width of all six of my pallet boards while still clearing the frame of the box when opening and closing. Then I discovered that two pallets were thinner than one pallet plus a 1x1 frame. My screws were too long for the lid. Back to the hardware store I went.

It was dusk when I got home, and I tried to work double-time so I could get it down before dark. All I had left to do was fasten the hinges to the back edge of the box and to the lid. Simple, right? Well, it might have been, except I had gone 'fancy' when I'd selected the boards. Most of the pallets were made up of simple, thin, straight-edged boards. At the top, though, I'd used thicker, wider, live-edged planks. They looked gorgeous. They also bulged and curved into and away from the hinges. Also, they split way too easily. I had to try three different positions to find a spot that could work for the hinges, and then I had to peel away some of the bulk to even up the plank just enough for the entire procedure to work. But then, success! The hinges stayed in place, the lid lifted smoothly and free of obstruction, and NOTHING FELL APART!

How proud was I? Also, my shoulder was burning. I carried her inside, set her in her spot at the foot of my bed, and decided to find some fabric and staple it onto the bottom of the interior. That led to a decision between the colours I had on hand, cream, red, royal blue, or a striped beige. Cream won. Stapling took no time whatsoever, and then I lay my camera and my projector inside the crate and shut the lid.

And that, plus four slivers, one headache, a burning shoulder and some seriously aching back muscles was all there was to it! Hobby complete!

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