Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Creative Life: Side Projects and Hobbies are Important

Technique Tuesday

In a perfect world, Austin Kleon's fifth point, in his presentation, "How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 other things nobody told me)," Side projects and hobbies are important, shouldn't need saying. The world in which we live, however, is not one most of us would mistake for perfect. Among the catalog of ills that beset us North Americans is that we are immersed in a culture that values long hard work over leisure.

Economic measures show U.S. workforce productivity growing year after year as we do more with less, cover job functions for people who have been let go and not replaced, and desperately try to realize the myth of multitasking. We even take a perverse sort of pride in getting roughly half as much vacation time as our European counterparts.

An interesting side-effect is that we work just as hard at play as we do at work. If you believe the soft drink adds, you're not really recreating unless you're careening down a mountain on a snow board, mountain bike, or para-glider. We've reduced play to excitement and entertainment by squeezing out time-wasters like concentration and contemplation.

Kleon argues that we need to balance our directed activities with non-directed activities:
Speaking of play — one thing I’ve learned in my brief tenure as an artist: it’s the side projects that blow up.

By side projects I mean the stuff that you thought was just messing around. Stuff that’s just play. That’s actually the good stuff. That’s when the magic happens.
Hard work has its place, so long as we don't lose sight of the magic that makes it all meaningful.

There's truth to the cliché about refilling the well. Kleon says, "It’s also important to have a hobby. Something that’s just for you."

The technique here is to make time and space where you can play the kinds of quiet games that help your creativity to flourish.


Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net