Balancing Corporate and Creative: Work on a Personal Project Now

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[su_dropcap style=”flat”]O[/su_dropcap]UR JOBS can take up so much of our time. This has always been true, but there’s something strange and specific to this day and age that makes it particularly difficult. The Internet has done many great things, but its ability to keep us connected increases professional pressure. Being at home, away from the office, no longer means you can’t do any work.

But your job doesn’t just take a lot of your time when you’re actually working. If you’re in a stressful job, then it will rob you of your time in other ways. You may have something you need to do after work, but you’re so high-strung that you need to unwind a bit first. You’ve exhausted yourself. You don’t have the motivation to do much else. You go to bed without getting anything done except maybe playing a few levels of Call of Duty. Before you know it, you’re awake and ready to go right back to work again.

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When we become stressed at work, we’re less likely to want to work on personal projects. We want to blow off steam by doing more fun and brainless activities. We’ll sit in front of the television for hours, or play violent video games, or go drinking with friends. For sure, part of this can be attributed to your own sense of self-discipline. All of these things are fine if they’re what you want to be doing, but what if you have other things you want to focus on? In this scenario, you need to assess what it is about your job that stresses you out so much.

As a society, we seem to drill the importance of work and fortune into people quite early. We’re told to go to college so we can get a good job, a good salary, with opportunities for promotion and career development. We scare our kids away from putting effort into anything that might not end with them wearing a suit and working in an office with a six-figure salary. Kids are fun-loving and creative, but for a lot of people those attributes get phased out somewhere along the line. Drawing and writing don’t always pay the bills, after all.

During my days working in corporate offices, I would find myself surprised every few weeks. This was because the more I spoke to my fellow employees, the more I realised just how many creative people there are out there. Or, rather, people with creative aspirations. Because the two are very different. It’s important to recognise this. Being creative suggests actually creating something. To work on an idea that’s been kicking around in your mind, to bring it to the outside world.

Do you have creative aspirations? If you aren’t working on a personal creative project, then it’s possible that your expending too much brain power on your job. People often forget that such a thing as mental fatigue exists. A buildup of tasks, a bunch of distractions and attentions being divided throughout the day tires your brain out. By the time you get home, you just want to relax. And despite common misconceptions, working on a person creative project is just that — it’s work!

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So how do we find a balance? I’m not here to bore you with the old “right side of the brain versus the left side of the brain” theory. Besides, the idea that logical thinkings comes from the right side and creativity comes from the right side isn’t true! If it were true, it would probably be much easier to juggle the two. What we have instead is an incredibly complex brain that focuses on several disciplines in the same places. You shouldn’t be trying to find a way to live exclusively by one side or another. The creative and the serious parts of your brain mingle with each other. So, you must find a way to balance your life and workload appropriately.

The fact is that if you have creative ambitions, you need to tend to them. If you don’t, your stress and displeasure at work will only increase. Both need to coincide, at least until you want to take one to the next professional step.

So what kind of creative project do you want to take on? Depending on which one you want to do, the tactics you’ll need to employ will be different. Here’s some suggestions for a creative outlet, as well as tips for making time to get started.

Writing fiction

You may be surprised to find out just how many people you know want to be novelists. Remember how much you loved stories as a kid? From a young age, people love stories and want to tell them. Pretty much everyone has a story they wrote when they were little, even if it was only a page long and in barely legible handwriting.

Perhaps more than any other creative endeavour, writing requires strong discipline. To sit there and just type, type, type is harder than you may think! Brainstorming plot ideas and dialogue, doing research, writing it all out — it’s all very time-consuming. Working this into a job routine is difficult, but it can be done.

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Start small. When you get home from work, take a shower and clear your head. Sit down and spend twenty minutes writing about your day. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or accuracy. Just cram your thoughts and ideas onto a page as fast as you can. This will get you into the habit of writing after work. Don’t use your phone or the Internet during this time! You need to be free of distractions.

After doing this from Monday to Friday, spend the weekend coming up with an idea for a short story. Remember that the best inspiration for writing is reading. Spend more of your free time reading fiction. During the following week, spend those twenty minutes after work compiling your short story. Try to get one done by the end of the week. Again, don’t worry about grammatical correctness! Just get the story written from beginning to end!

A great way to get proofreading into your routine is to get an ebook reader. Gadgets like the Kindle and the Kobo allow you to put your own text files onto them. This way, you can proofread your work on the commute to and from work! Reading your own stuff on the way home will help get your mind into your fiction zone!

Over time, you will need to spend more and more time writing. Gradually increase your writing time. First from twenty minutes to half an hour. Then see if you can get an hour in after work. Once you’re used to spending longer amounts of time writing, see if you can spend a few hours working on the weekends. Consider taking a day or two off a month that you can dedicate to working on your piece.

Keeping a blog

Writing non-fiction is a great outlet, too! Keeping a blog isn’t just about sharing your personality with everyone. Writing something journalistic can help you make sense of your own thoughts. And the more you do it, the better a writer you’ll become. If you have writerly ambitions, having a blog to showcase your material is a must.

Finding time to write a blog is different to finding time to write short stories or a novel. In one sense, it’s easier. The material you’re writing is going to be a heck of a lot shorter, for one! It also requires less of a strain on your imagination. However, it does have its short-term time problems. When you’re writing a story, it could be a long time before someone reads it. You have somewhat of a luxury to rush or be sloppy. With a blog post, you’re writing something that you’re going to share online soon after completion.

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Get clued in about how to start a blog. Once it’s up, consider writing quick drafts at your computer or in a notepad. One of the great things about blogs is that the blog host will probably have a mobile app you can use. This will allow you to compose posts while on the commute or during breaks. It’s easier to dip in and out of blog post writing than it is fiction writing!

Remember that it is possible to be a professional blogger, just as it’s possible to be a full-time fiction writer. You can earn good money from your blog through advertisements and endorsements if you get a big enough readership!

Drawing

Drawing can be the easiest one to find time for. Of course, everyone works differently, so don’t take that as absolute fact! This article assumes that you want to draw but haven’t gotten into the habit of doing so.

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One of the perks of drawing is that it requires less technology than any of the other pursuits. If you’re feeling out of practise, start taking a small sketchbook with you wherever you go. Start taking lunch breaks from work by yourself. Get out of the office and find somewhere to sit down. Simply sketch whatever you see! Don’t let a lack of ideas hold you back. You just need to get back into the swing of the drawing motions. Once you’ve gotten some work down and you’re no longer looking at a blank page, things become much easier.

Here’s a cheeky suggestion. If you’ve got a notepad on your desk at work, take a few minutes every hour or two to work on some drafts or doodles. This is such a widespread practise in the workplace that people won’t automatically think you’re goofing off! Bosses know that little mini-breaks every hour or so keeps productivity flowing. Do some sketching in that time.

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