Why Creative Side Projects are Good For You

I wrote a kids book. It’s about my infant son who is unrelenting in his quest to get me to feed him.

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It’s really cute, although I must confess, it’s not an original story. I ripped off Mo Willems‘ style from his popular series of children’s books about a smart-mouthed pigeon:

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From “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”

It’s also Shutterfly-printed photo book with semi-blurry pictures taken on my iPhone 5. You can read the book here (PDF).

kevin wants to eat

So it’s a silly DIY book that I made in a weekend, but I’m proud of it because I made it. I finally took one of my many ideas and indulged it.

The beauty of side projects

In 1948, 3M created a program called 15% time where employees were given a portion of their paid time to work on anything they wanted. Post-It Notes came out of it.

Google famously has (or used to have) their own 20% time program, which brought us Gmail and AdSense.

Craigslist, Basecamp and Twitter started off as side projects too.

Side projects are important because they are a fun way to inspire creativity, out of the box thinking, and “recover” from real work. There’s no pressure to create something successful, or anything at all.

Perhaps that’s why I loved my book project so much. I could create without giving a crap about deadlines or rules or what other people would think. It was refreshing. It forced me to be scrappy, and to experiment with different formats, layouts and story ideas. It was also a valuable exercise in writing and ruthless word selection.

Now, while I will not be pursuing a career in children’s books, I will be setting aside some time each week (Fridays) to have a more fun with my mostly far-fetched ideas.  [Side note: Friday is also my errand day – you can read more about how much I hate errands and how I batch them here.

Be the weirdo who dares to enjoy. – Elizabeth Gilbert

We should all take some time to follow our curiosities and obsessions.

Whatever you attempt doesn’t have to be life-altering or world changing. You don’t have to stick with it or share it. And you don’t have to make anything good, important, original, or even sane.

Think of it as an experiment that you can have fun with. Nothing serious, nothing structured, nothing stressful.

The important thing is that you give it a shot and take that first step.

Have an idea for a business? Sit down for a research and brainstorm session. Sketch out that motion-activated LED water bottle that you won’t stop talking about.

Obsessed with burgers? Try a new burger each week and start a blog about it (like this guy did).

Want to write a kids’ book? Write an outline in Google Drive, grab your phone and start taking pictures!

You never know what might come out of it.

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