August 22, 2016

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Melanie Richards’ honoring of creative women, a pattern library, weaving and more

What are you working on—on the side?

A couple months ago, I wrapped up my longest-standing side project, Badass Lady Creatives, a blog and directory which celebrates women working in design and related fields. After 3 years of profiling incredibly talented designers, artists, illustrators, developers, etc., I’ve decided to move on to some other projects.

Right now, I’m working on a couple things: putting together a pattern library (here’s some examples of what I mean) that I can use as a jumping-off point for my own web projects; working on a little utility to make it easier to bulk edit articles saved in your Pocket account; and digging more into craft, especially tapestry weaving (below). I’d also like to do some longform writing on really niche subjects, possibly as a “liberal arts” sort of website, so I’m looking into how I can improve my writing and fact-finding skills.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

My strategies for making time for side projects has evolved to fit different jobs, schedules, life circumstances. For example, I currently have a long bus commute, so I use that time to whittle down some smaller tasks. I also regularly attend Meetups, like Beer && Code and Code Sisters Seattle, where people get together to hang out and work on side projects. I’m a huge fan of the camaraderie that is working side-by-side on projects with a close friend.

This year, I’ve been experimenting with how I set and track goals. One practice I’m trying to get better at is having at least one set block of hours a week in which I’m working on a personal project. For me, Friday nights are actually a really good time to do that, since I’m pooped from the work week and need to recover in my introvert shell before the weekend. I’ve started to be less prescriptive about which side project to work on, instead, following my mood—it’s an easier way to feel motivated to begin.

I’ve also stolen an idea from the prolific writer Victoria (V.E.) Schwab: I have some side-project-esque activities color-coded, and for each hour I spend with those activities, I color in a block in my Hobonichi planner. It helps me spend more time with my side projects (rather than just crossing something off the list), and it also helps me see at a quick glance how I’m balancing—or not—the different activities that are important to me.

Why have a side project?

Often, my side projects are inspired by something I want or need—if it doesn’t exist yet, I’ll do it myself, dang-it. But I think for all people who feel energized by making, side projects are great for growth. Your day job probably doesn’t scratch every creative itch, so you can round out your satisfaction by exploring on your own time those things that interest you. You might find, as I do, that the new avenues you explore through personal projects ending up finding their way into your work. Personal projects are a great way to test out new skills and approaches in a setting with arguably far less risk or pressure.

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Images courtesy of Melanie Richards.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.

This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.

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