During wintertime, the color drains out of the landscape. We hunker down in our familiar studios and apartments to avoid the bitter cold, effectively cutting ourselves off from novel sights and sounds. It’s dark and drab and a bit depressing.
It’s not uncommon for creatives to hibernate during the winter. Even if we don’t choose to hibernate, we may feel as if somehow our creative energies are diminished, as fleeting and unsatisfying as the few hours of sunshine we experience.
We might panic, feeling as though we’ve lost our creative drive forever. Or attempt feverishly to stoke some sort of inspired pursuit that just doesn’t seem to thrive in the stark, freezing weather.
And that’s ok. It’s ok to use the winter to rest. Creativity takes effort and energy. It can be exhausting. And winter offers respite. An excuse to stay tucked into bed reading or watching old films under a blanket on the sofa.
But spring is peeking out from under the dark debris of winter now in the form of hardy yellow daffodils. It’s waving its cherry blossom pompons in celebration. It’s spilling out onto the sidewalks where street vendors are displaying their braided bracelets and gemstone rings.
You’ve probably felt it stirring your imagination. New ideas are bubbling to the surface. Fresh excitement over artistic possibilities. In short, if winter is the perfect time to give your creativity a break, spring is the ideal season for exploring new creative side projects.
Shake things up
If your professional life is leaving something to be desired, a side project can shake it up, offer a break from the day-to-day grind, or even inspire a new way of thinking about your work. The Fabricant Way was my own side project during such a time, and it helped to heal my relationship with my work.
See old problems in new ways
There’s nothing like a good shaking to get ideas bouncing around together. Over time, when we work in one area, our ideas and approaches can become stale. Solving problems and innovating can seem more challenging as we steer along familiar tracks. When you’ve added a side project to your normal routine, you’ve added novelty into your daily life that can generate new ways of seeing old problems.
Inspire new ideas
When you adopt a side project that’s radically different from your routine projects, you begin to see things through a new lens. That novel perspective will generate new ideas and breathe fresh life into old ideas.
Take safe risks
Side projects offer an opportunity to try on new hats and build new skill sets. There’s no pressure in side projects to be perfect or even reasonably good. The whole point is to dabble, to play, to experiment, and to experience.
Discover new opportunities
You may uncover talents that had been hidden or passions that had never been plumbed as you undertake your side project. How many people have left career paths unpursued because they never realized they existed? In her talk about side projects and eccentric aunts, Tina Roth Eisenberg, the brilliant mind behind SwissMiss, Tattly, and StudioMates, shares several examples of side projects that led to unexpected career opportunities.
FOWD Talk 2011: The Power of Side Projects and Eccentric Aunts from swissmiss on Vimeo.
Get comfortable with mistakes
Because side projects are on the side, because we’re not doing them for money or career but for love, we often give ourselves greater freedom to make mistakes. No one expects their first turn at a potter’s wheel to end in perfectly symmetrical vase. Likewise, side projects are an excuse to welcome failures and errors as opportunities for improvement (as they always should be).
As we discover new talents and interests, become comfortable with mistakes as teachable moments, and develop new perspectives, we’ll also build confidence. We’ll recognize that our mistakes are the platforms of our greatest accomplishments. That our potential for creating and growing are bound only by our own imagination. That the world is colored by the way that we choose to look at it.
What side project are you undertaking this spring?