Q&A: How do you make time for side projects?

Last week I received an email from a nice college student named Lauren. Lauren had a good question and I thought it was worth sharing on the world wide web (with her permission, of course). I also edited the exchange to only keep the relevant parts to this blog post.

I am currently balancing a job, class and my “side-project” illustration work. When you were in college, what worked for you? Did you keep a daily journal? How did you keep what you wanted to do separate from your assignments?

Thanks a ton!

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for writing. I was a crazy college kid who took herself like, soooo seriously. I spent all my time on class projects, which is okay enough because I did a good job and had fun, but a few side projects wouldn’t have hurt. I think you’re already ahead of the game if you’re creating personal work now. I do well with self-initiated projects that have a start and end date (100 day projects and the like). I even started my first book by turning it into a monthly blog post where I uploaded one new “I’d rather be short” drawing every day. They took way longer than I thought, and I only created half as many as I intended, but this structure helped me accomplish my big goal—compile enough illustrations to pitch to lit agents.

I’ve also found that doing a side project at the same time every day helps, even if it’s just 10 minutes before bed or first thing in the morning. I think it’s best to give your personal work the best part of your day (early morning). This way you start the day out feeling satisfied, and no job or class project can take that from you.

I’ve learned that slow and steady wins the race. Steady baby steps are usually more powerful than sporadic sprints. There’s a time and place for each, but for the sake of practice, I’d rather “stay in shape” by drawing a little bit every day than just picking up the pen for a huge project once every couple of weeks.

I hope that helps. Best of luck!


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