June 8, 2014

Pride, Work, and Necessity of Side Projects: Chris Maier’s Little Salon

What are you working on—on the side?

Little Salon is my latest side project. It grows out of a belief that the vitality of a community can be measured by that community’s homegrown creativity, the ways it engages and celebrates and spurs its collective imagination. And it grows out of a basic love of salons—the old, French kind, where people would get together, entertain each other, swap ideas, act a little crazy. Washington, DC, is ripe for this kind of thing. After decades of relegating so much of our art to big institutions and impersonal auditoriums, DC people—especially young, vibrant, quirky, creative people—are claiming the city as their own. Little Salon wants to be part of that, which we do by hosting salons in people’s living rooms, in their backyards, on their roof-decks. We curate nights that feature musicians, poets, fiction writers, photographers. We fill the bathtub with beer and the countertop with wine. We invite anyone who can find us to c’mon over.

How do you manage to work
on your side projects?

Find free time, claim it, and tell myself—I mean, really convince myself—that it’s non-negotiable. That’s the way I start, at least, because I’m easily distracted and pretty prone to over-commitment. So, for a project to ever truly become what you want it to be, I have to first give it some priority. And then I set some goals, sometimes modest ones, but at least they keep me working toward something. Make sure the sense of momentum never stalls.

As a fiction writer, I gravitate especially toward projects that champion storytelling, whether it’s hammering out a few pages of a novel alone in some corner, or finding ways (like Little Salon) to build some excitement around storytelling—and creative pursuits in general. Which is a long set-up for saying: I manage to find ways to work on side projects, because the only projects that really have staying power are projects of passion.

Why have side projects?

Because with a side project, you have complete freedom to do exactly what you want—to carry a vision, however crazy it might be, from concept to completion. And maybe that’s a collective vision, which means you get to join forces with people who are passionate, talented, inspired, and usually have something to teach you. And whatever the side project is, it gives you something outside of work to get you motivated, challenged, hungry. And that obviously then filters back into your work. There’s no doubt that the writing, organizing, and presenting that fuels me at night has an enormous influence on the work I do by day as a creative director.

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Diptych courtesy of Chris Maier.

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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