You know, sometimes…sometimes I don’t feel all that inspired by my writing work.
Am I good at it? Sure.
Can I deliver on time? Yep.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m always excited to write the same types of articles day in and day out. Plus, my work can be fairly technical and research-heavy, which doesn’t always lend itself to a lot of creativity.
I get burned out just like anyone else.
The question is: How do you nurture your creative side (so that you don’t lose it)?
Creative Side Projects Can Help
For me, side projects are my go-to in times when I’m feeling less than inspired.
I’ve always been a side projects person, really. In college, I ran an Etsy store that sold vintage jewelry. My freelance writing business even started as a side project while I worked full-time in PR.
Side projects are great because they provide the opportunity to be creative and test the waters with something new (without having to go all-in).
They can be low-investment ventures that you pick up when you have time, or that you slowly build into something bigger. Or 100% just for fun.
The beauty of them is: It’s your call either way. No pressure.
I’m currently in the middle of a creativity rut--and it’s why I’ve been getting back into side projects more lately. I’ve been working on things like:
- Yeah Write Club, a fun newsletter for writers and editors
- Ask Content Gals, a series of live workshops I co-lead that help answer burning questions from content marketers (our first one is today, btw!)
- Creative Class and the Creative Class podcast, another partner project on the business of freelancing
All of these side projects allow me to use my creative skills in ways that I don’t normally in day-to-day work. And I need that. Maybe you do, too.
I’ve found that as long as I can find an outlet for my creative ideas, I can keep the juices flowing. But if I go too long without attempting anything new--my creative brain starts to shut down.
Maybe creativity is a muscle. You have to exercise it, or it atrophies.
Everyone’s Doin’ It
I’m not the only one that knows side projects can be the secret to creative sustainability, either.
I’ve seen lots of my internet pals heading up their own side projects--and they inspire me to stick with my own.
Some good examples:
1. Emma Siemasko is flexing her storytelling skills with short-form videos on YouTube.
2. Claire Suellentrop and Gia Laudi have their Forget the Funnel workshops.
3. Jes Kirkwood launched marketHer to spotlight female tech marketers.
And there are so. many. others.
The point is: Side projects are a good thing. They give you the opportunity to stay creative and inspired, even during those phases when your work isn’t doing it for you.
That way, when you do get hired for a more creative project again, you're already in the zone.
General Things to Keep in Mind About Side Projects
If you’re on board with this idea and are thinking, “Yeah, cool, I’m gunna start (or pick back up) a side project now too”, that’s excellent.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make your plans.
1. Your side project doesn’t have to be a money-maker.
If you want your side project to be knitting blankets that you donate to the local animal shelter--wonderful (it's very thoughtful of you). Your side project doesn’t have to be about #growthacking or #makingdatmoney. It can be purely just because. You officially have permission for that, in case you needed it.
2. Sometimes side projects are more fun with a friend.
I don’t always follow through on side projects when I try to do them alone. That’s why I look for opportunities to partner with a friend. Two minds can be better than one--especially when your partner has complementary skills. Plus: It’s a good way for you to work more closely with someone you respect and admire.
3. If at first you don’t succeed...
In the words of Aaliyah, “Dust yourself off and try again.” Sometimes side projects flop and you don’t end up accomplishing what you set out to do. And that’s okay--you’re experimenting. A big part of being creative is testing out new ideas and learning from the process. Side projects are a great way to iterate on different ideas you have--and they can evolve over time based on what you learn along the way.
This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.