On the Crew blog, Belle Beth Cooper shares some insight into the power of side projects that aren’t intended for anyone but their maker. She argues that deliberately creating things solely for yourself, not meant to be shared or viewed by anyone else, helps you learn, practice, and hone your craft in deeper ways than possible with a side project destined for public sharing:
Your experimental projects could very well turn into publicly released work that you’re proud of. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the freedom that comes from this type of work is partly because it’s not intended for an audience…. I’m all for sharing your work. In fact, I think most of us could stand to share more than we do. But there’s a difference between your work and your experiments or learning. There’s an inevitable worry we all feel to some degree when we know other people will see what we’re working on. Building things just for you removes any of that concern.
As Rule 6 of the Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules states, “Nothing is a mistake…. There’s only make.” When you’re making only for yourself, you’re free to focus on the nuances of the craft stripped away from the pressure to sell, get downloads, visits, reviews, or other forms of public currency. Cooper writes:
In a sea of likes and upvotes, when we’re so used to judging ourselves and our work based on other people’s reactions, working for yourself can really change your perspective.
In addition, it’s easy in a capitalist society to feel an underlying pressure beneath even creative ventures to earn money, or at least eyeballs that could translate into money in the future. And side projects are, truly, often thought of as little strongholds of serious potential to turn into an award-winning product or headline-making venture. But there’s real value in carving out time and energy to craft solely for yourself, to make a side project truly a side project, set aside from your main channel of work.
Challenge yourself, the next time you feel a creative impulse around an idea, to tinker away with zero intention of sharing the end result. What would you write, build, or develop if you knew no one was watching? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? When it comes to creative side work, the answer is yes.