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?

2 thoughts on “Productive procrastination: the need for side projects

  1. My blog is my side project! Writing about picture books is a good way to encourage myself to take some down time, away from the heavy material and research I do in university, and enjoy reading for myself.

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