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Blog // Artistry
June 5, 2017

On Having No Side Projects

A common part of creative freelancing life is the hustle and side projects. Well, it’s no longer part of my life anymore.

Having decided to quit BeingTokyo last week (you can read more about this here), I now have no side projects. Life now is just work, family, sleep and recreation. This is a stark contrast to how things felt back in 2015 when I realised life had become just a collection of side projects with seemingly no centre.

Side projects, or side hustles as they are sometimes called, are popular today in the creative world. This reflects a dream many people have to break away from restrictive careers and into something more artistic. It’s also a comment on the state of freelance creative work today, and comes from the desire to be more: the slash, the “both and” – photographer and writer, designer and podcaster, musician and YouTube personality.

This impulse is not wrong. Our creativity is a mysterious, ever-evolving thing. It will at times resist being boxed in. You can’t SEO the human soul.

And, in our times, maybe we should be resisting the pressure to define ourselves narrowly. Our cultural moment seems hell-bent on defining people by their one most distinctive feature, whether their race, religion, gender or sexuality. The only winners in this game seem to be politicians and anonymous online trolls.

Walking away from all the side projects has helped me become more clear about my identity as a photographer and helped me finally to write a clear business plan. But I’m not rewriting my personality or the multiples that go into it.

My years as a musician, all the training that went into that, still influence everything I do, even when I’m playing or writing music. The same for my years in philosophy. The gig I had as a newspaper columnist changed the way I write, which in turn is reflected in how I write about photography, art and creativity.

But, for the first time in what feels like forever, I’m doing that with clarity, in the absence of distraction, and without ambiguity about how much my efforts matter.

Responses
Dane Cobain 2 years ago

“You can’t SEO the human soul.” What a great line, and so true.

I suppose we’re so used to defining ourselves as multiple different things, especially when we’re forced to try to summarise ourselves in just 140 characters or so in a Twitter bio. That’s why you see bios where people say, for example, “Mum / Wife / Teacher / Vegan / Dog Lover.”

It’s funny because my side-hustle has always been my own writing in terms of the books that I write. It’s what I always wanted to do and why I studied creative writing, and I only got into what used to be my actual hustle – social media marketing – because it involved a little writing.

Then as time went on, I continued to work on the side hustle until it took over from my day job and just became my actual hustle. These days, it doesn’t feel like there’s much difference between my freelance work and the books that I write. It all adds to my portfolio, I guess. And there’s also the fact that I learn stuff from working on my clients that I can then apply to my own work, even if it’s just that a certain sentence structure doesn’t work too well.

It really depends upon the side hustle I guess, because I just always chased mine with a kind of laser focus. I’m sure my case is a little different to most others, though. I think all of the side hustles I’ve ever had have all related back to that central goal of writing for a living.

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