The Importance of Side Projects

Be seeing you

[Image: Oliver Hammond via Compfight]

Right around the time I started submitting short stories to literary journals and magazines, I realized I needed a website. I wanted a place to house and track my aspirations, successes and setbacks, a place to connect with others in more than just 140 characters. Also, for marketing reasons (everyone says better to start building a writer/author platform sooner rather than later). And, maybe most of all, I desperately needed a creative project outside of writing, revising and submitting.

Many months ago, I started learning HTML and CSS on Codecademy. I learned more than I realized at the time, but I didn’t practice and I didn’t work at it on a daily or even weekly basis. So, when it came time to get my own website up and running, I knew I would not be designing it myself from scratch. I did what many people and small businesses do: I signed up for with a web hosting service, installed WordPress, found a beautiful theme I loved, and went to work customizing it.

The process has been frustrating, rewarding, exhausting and exhilarating. And fun! Once I got my footing, I was even able to put some of the coding I’d learned to use, making edits I wouldn’t been able to do otherwise. That felt amazing. The site’s occupied all of my free time and excess mental energy since I started; I’ve fallen asleep with thoughts of how to improve it dancing in my head, and awakened restless to get back at it. Best of all, it’s distracted me from obsessing about the fate of certain story submissions.

Working on my website all weekend has reinforced the importance of having a non-writing side project once in a while, even if it’s just for a couple days. It’s challenged me and revved up my brain. It’s given me a sense of accomplishment in something other than the thing I focus most of my free time on (writing). And it’s refreshed me for a new round of revisions, submissions and, yes, even a few story ideas I’m excited to start drafting.

Burnout is a serious hazard to staying the course on the writing journey. To avoid burnout, I think it’s important to step away from writing for a small chunks of time every so often, and do something else that’s challenging and exciting.

Do you work on side projects separate from your main passion/creative outlet? Share your thoughts.

Post navigation

  6 comments for “The Importance of Side Projects

  1. February 16, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Cornelia. I think side projects are crucial if we want to maintain our sanity as writers. Over the past few months I have taken breaks from writing a novel by writing a short story and also by trying to establish a social media presence. While these are not entirely separate from the writing endeavor, such activities have freed my brain from the constant focus on the plot and characters of the novel. Hopefully, I can branch out soon and incorporate other non-writerly pursuits into my daily schedule.

    • Cornelia_LO
      February 16, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      Thank you for chiming in, Matthew! It’s so true that the writing life encompasses so many things, but even just taking a short break from a lengthy project (like a novel) to focus a bit on something else, even if it’s writing shorter stuff, helps.

  2. February 16, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    The new site looks great, Cornelia, especially those writing credits on your Fiction page!

    • Cornelia_LO
      February 16, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      Thanks, Chris! :)

  3. Julie Davis
    February 17, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Congrats on getting your web site up. I still haven’t started mine.

    I totally believe in side projects. Right now I am taking a break from YA novel I’m writing to play with some ideas for a fantasy novel. I always write a little bit every day, in my journal if nothing else, but I also make dolls and have an idea for one I want to start. Sometimes I just doodle. I’ve read that really frees up the creative process.

    • February 17, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      Thanks, Julie!

      Making dolls sounds awesome. I’m not really great in the visual arts (drawing, painting, making things), but I was in a Michael’s the other day, and was really tempted to buy some cheap canvas and paints and just start playing with them.

      I look forward to hearing/reading more of the potential fantasy novel.

Leave a Reply