For me, the reason I’m starting to value side projects more is simple — my skills have a ceiling. I’m only as good a graphic designer as the amount of time I truly put into getting better. Even though making the web look a little better is what I do for a living, my talents are still limited by the side projects I’m not pursuing — the things I’m not trying my hand at, the things that would surely stretch me even further as an artist.
Having worked on an extracurricular project or two over the past few weeks, I can confidently say that the experience has been far more rewarding that I anticipated. By practicing my craft on non-work-related things, I’ve not only seen improvements in my skills on things I enjoy designing but also on Bixly projects. My understanding and output of HTML/CSS has increased as well, which has led to better comprehension and implementation of that knowledge on both home and work projects alike. And now I can’t wait to get home in the evenings so I can learn some more!
“Well that’s fine for Dave,” you might say. “What if I can’t ‘practice my craft’ here at home because of the type of work I do for a living? What say you then, DAVID??”
I would encourage you to find something to work on (that you also enjoy) that maybe closely resembles what you do. That way, you might gain some fresh perspective to take back with you to work! The other option is that you choose an entirely different hobby to work on — anything you can build or make that might offer you that perspective, or even crazy life experiences that build your character or skillset.
“But what about my weekly viewing of The Walking Dead ?!” I’m telling you, get started on something new, something extra, something you care about or could care about! Chances are that you will get attached to that something because it will often give back to you, in one form or another. Plus, if you’re clever, you might be able to squeeze in that harrowing hour of post-apocalyptic zombie survival too!
– David Olson