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.