Writing a novel or poetry is tough work. And sometimes, things aren’t going as planned. Not sure what to do? Maybe your creative process needs a side hustle. For most people, a side-hustle is an extra job or skill that makes some extra money. But sometimes, your creativity needs a side hustle, too. To figure that out, you have to stop and think. What inspires you? What motivates you? What can you do to see the world in a different way? Once you start thinking of ways to activate your creativity, you might find a good creative side hustle. Your creativity is flexible, but often we don’t put a lot of faith in that. Don’t think that if you try something different, your creative writing skills are going to dry up. That isn’t really how it works. Finding new ways to engage your creativity is vital. I ran a craft sign business for awhile and really like working with my hands. I learned a lot about the craft industry and made some cool stuff. Another side-hustle that doesn’t make money is playing my violin. It is a different way of connecting with the world and it has allowed me to some fun opportunities in music. Why not try being a blacksmith? Why not be a DJ for a night?
Creativity Needs Inspiration
Your creative side hustle doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or demand a lot of time, but it needs to push you into new ideas, new ways of thinking, and bring about a change in your writing process. It might be long walks, it might be a bowling league, playing video games, deep dive into something you always wondered about. There was fifteen minutes when I wanted to raise silkworms and see if I could spin silk. Nope, not doing that. But, I thought about it. I did some looking around and once I got into invasive caterpillars, I knew this wasn’t for me. But it did inspire some good premise for anyone who has obsessed about a hobby.
Don’t Go Too Far
If your creative recharge is so epic that you never come back to writing, it isn’t a side hustle anymore – it’s a life change. I do things to keep writing and thinking moving forward. I don’t need to sit and stare at the screen when I am not ready to write, but I may need to think. Go for walks, read books you admire, and remember that this is part of the process. Just because you are not typing, doesn’t mean you aren’t working. Sometimes, that means you appear (to normal people) like you aren’t doing anything. Maybe you sit in a café and listen to conversations. Maybe you watch movies, research something strange, take a road trip, make a cheesecake or whatever crazy think you need. But when you go back to the writing you will be recharged, focused, and informed.
It might be important to you to immerse yourself in a vocation or skill to better understand and write about things. If you are writing about horses, take a riding lesson. If you are writing about sailing, at least go to the sea and stand there for awhile and get the essences. Maybe you want to shadow an accountant for a day and see what they are like. Some people spend a lot of time trying and practicing some of the ideas that they end up writing in their creative work. What does a geologist do? What’s culinary school like? What’s it like in a drain pipe? With Youtube, you can see stream experiences into your living room without really leaving your house. If you are a fan of DIY videos, why not see what it is like to investigate an airline disaster, or watch a documentary. These experiences and fieldtrips into the world will help you connect with people, ask questions, and give you some things to consider when you return to your work.
Write for a Different Audience
If you are not really looking for inspiration outside of the life you have now, why not make your side hustle a different way of writing. Start a blog, write for a topic or section of a website, and get some perspective on writing and thinking. Sometimes, these projects turn into new challenges and you begin to forget what might have been trouble for you in your other writing projects. I need to be busy when I am productive, so jumping into articles (like this one), or reviewing books is a good way to structure my time and realize that I don’t have time to be stuck. I need to write the next article, plan the next creative writing workshop, and get back to my creative writing. If you can’t write that novel right now, write something else that might help you along the way. I write book reviews because I read a lot. Why not turn my reading into conversations, social currency, and spotlight what is not being seen. I wrote a boxing blog for a few years that landed me an interview at ESPN. I wasn’t hired, but then again, it was a cool experience. Creative side hustle can surprise you.
Tactile Vision of the World
Sometimes, it is important to just feel or be in a moment. There are some things that can’t be explained until you do them. I learned how to juggle when I was about fifteen years old, and I can still juggle, because it is a feel thing. Have you ever wondered what it is like to land a big fish? Go fishing. Maybe you need to understand the pressure of being an independent business person: work for someone who doesn’t have a choice to call out sick. Do you know what it feels like to canter a horse, scuba dive in the ocean, punch someone (not for real but punch a bag), or climb a tree? Sometimes, your creative asides should also be about how things feel and look. It is something that is important in the writing process and it is important in conveying those elements to the world. I understand that we can’t try everything we write about, but bridging that experience gives you confidence, vision, and inspiration.
Finding “that” Person in the Room
If you go into public or try out new things, find that person in the room who can speak to you about what you are curious about. I like to walk into a room and find the person who 1) is the one who stands out the most, or 2) the person who looks like they want to flee at any moment. If you can get them talking — you may get some insight that is important. Talking to scuba divers, you can ask a few questions and get a sense about their diving immediately. You can sense their ability, their knowledge, and their preferences really fast. You don’t have to ask them a list of questions but balance the questions to the way they operate around the boat and the diving. Telling someone you are a writer is like telling someone you want to use them. That is not a good idea. Just meeting someone and understanding who they are is enough. Let them tell you what is important. Let them open the door to understanding.
Get Back to Writing
The creative side-hustle is more than just a distraction. It is the action (the hustle) that will inspire, connect, and bring new things to your writing. It is easy to become obsessed, it is easy to get distracted and lost. Use this time away from the keyboard to think, to experience new ideas and challenge different parts of your life. Then get back to the work. You will feel better. You will feel like you aren’t missing too much of the world – in fact, you have reconnected with it.
In 2020, it is worth mentioning that because of the Covid-19 experience, getting out and doing some of the things mentioned here isn’t easy. But it makes them more valuable to know that you need them. Keep making lists of things you want to experience, things you want to find out, and keep looking for ways to make that happen. You will be happy that you created a little creative side-hustle, but you will also be a better, more thoughtful writer.