Productive procrastination: the need for side projects


I’ve been doing more writing than drawing the past couple weeks. I’m actually working on a middle-grade book that features a central theme of identity with sci-fi undertones. This idea has been brewing for a while so I’m excited to finally get some words on the page.

I guess I’d consider this book a side project given my current focus on picture books. But heck…all my projects are technically side projects since I’m a member of the day-job community and all.

Historically, I’ve felt this overwhelming obligation to focus on what I’m trying to do with my life. Become a musician, painter, writer, artist, etc. This list has rotated over the years with varying degrees of attention and associated guilt or frustration. I’d always feel guilty when I wasn’t giving 100% of myself to my current path of choice. Since I’m a natural-born dabbler, I’d feel guilty and frustrated a lot. And I still do sometimes.

Turns out, side projects and hobbies have been deemed a good thing thanks to Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist. This is one of my favorite books. It’s filled with little nuggets that are sure to lift your creative spirit. I page through now and then when I feel stuck or just need a reminder of some of my favorite parts. This part jumped to my mind today as I flitted between projects.

“One thing I’ve learned in my brief career: It’s the side projects that really take off. 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.

I think it’s good to have a lot of projects going at once so you can bounce between them. When you get sick of one project, move over to another, and when you’re sick of that one, move back to the project you left. Practice productive procrastination.” – Austin Kleon in Steal Like an Artist

So, in the spirit of side projects and productive procrastination, I thought I’d share a couple poster-style pieces I’ve tinkered with on and off over the past couple years.

Happy Hour by Sheri Roloff

Both pieces started as pencil drawings which I then scanned in and futzed with in Photoshop whenever the spirit of side projects (or the overwhelming desire to dabble) moves me.

Go Fly a Kite by Sheri Roloff

So, revel in your side projects! Use them as productive procrastination and don’t feel guilty about it. (I need to keep telling myself this!)

Tell me about your side projects. How do they feed your other creative work?

Is too much (writing) advice a bad thing?


Is too much writing advice a bad thing? My current answer: yes. And I think this is true for many things. Eventually too much advice becomes, well, too much.

The last few months I’ve been actively soaking up advice from innumerable sources (blogs, articles, social media, books, people in real life *gasp!*) both about writing in general and writing picture books specifically.

Here’s what I’ve found. Some of the advice has been super helpful, insightful and inspiring. For instance, some of the quotes and articles I’ve found through @AdviceToWriters, Stephen King’s excellent book On Writing, and (especially) feedback from my awesome critique group. On the other hand, some of the advice I’ve found seems misguided and conflicts with other things I’ve heard/read…which is frustrating.

I think the most prevalent advice I’ve found is that if you want to write, WRITE. And I think this can be applied to anything. If you want to paint, PAINT! Stop merely thinking about it, worrying that what you’re doing is not good enough, distracting yourself, etc. and hone your craft. You’d think this sage advice would be obvious, but these universal hurdles are clearly thwarting people on a daily basis. (I can personally attest to this!)

So I’m not saying we should shut ourselves off from advice or not be open to advice. There are bound to be golden nuggets, especially from the right sources. And it’s up to each individual to find those sources and filter advice into two categories: useful and not useful. But I think too much advice can bog a person down from their actual task, project or goal at hand.

What do you think? Can too much advice (writing or otherwise) be a bad thing?

Meet Fiasco and Flatypus from The Garbage Monster


Hi there!

I’m working on a picture book called The Garbage Monster, starring Fiasco the cat and his trusty sidekick (and favorite toy) Flatypus. Here is a preliminary illustration. In this scene Fiasco is jolted awake by The Garbage Monster’s menacing sounds. Aaah!

Fiasco and Flatypus

Who or what is The Garbage Monster, you might ask? It’s a secret! Ha! At least until I post more illustrations. 🙂


Vegas Lights: a quick drawing from vacation


I was in Vegas last weekend and managed to crank out a quick drawing during the basketball games. Mostly during the game before the Badgers – I swear! (Ok, so basketball isn’t really my thing.) But that morning I woke up with a visual idea in my head and this is what it turned out to be. I haven’t just made something just to make something for a while (you know, without a long-term project in mind). So it was nice to create just for the sake of creating. I’m calling this one Vegas Lights since my location probably had some influence on it.

Vegas Lights by Sheri Roloff

Later, gators. 🙂