If we are the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the media we are served and the conversations we have both externally and internally, then how can the things we spend most of our time doing not have a direct effect on our creative voice? For a lot of us, work occupies the majority of our time.

In most creative fields that involve a series of people to bring ideas to life, there is a fair deal of compromise that happens with regards to the individual creative voice. As creative people, our voice is the one thing that gives us our edge. It informs our sensibilities and taste, and differentiates us from others in our respective fields. Whether this compromise is opinion-based in committee settings or completely systematic due to uncontrollable external factors like timing or budget, compromise on a creative level is almost a certainty, and its effect on our individual creative voice is inevitable.

The relationship structures at work and our place within them position our output and define the weight of our voice. Positioning is hugely important, as every action we experience is either fueling or eroding our creative voice.

Often the voice at work is perceived as something separate from the voice outside of work, but for many this voice is inseparable. So how do we protect it? How do we take the necessary steps to make it thrive?

Side projects are a sure way of reducing compromise in thought, vision and direction. No matter how small they are, they have the power to afford you the rank of being the master of your own creative voice. You immediately become responsible for all the creative decisions that over time can flow directly from the gut without alteration from the structural boxes we often find ourselves in.

Even if a side project is a complete failure, the time that has been invested in our own creative voice builds the ability to tap into creative instincts, without hesitation. At the very least, a creative side project can shape your idea of what not to do. Sometimes what not to do can help you stay away from future bad decisions. The truth is, a side project is most likely going to build a skill and give you energy. If it gives you energy, that’s half the battle in staying motivated.

We could all benefit from a side project, and often finding the time can be challenging, but considering our addiction to passive interactions like the endless feed scroll or mining for likes, there is always time to be made.

Here’s a challenge as the end of 2017 nears: Instead of talking yourself out of it, go and do that creative side project you’ve been putting off for the past two years. Chances are, even if you fail at creating anything that you like, you will empower and improve your creative voice and promote confidence in your upcoming creative decision making. Time to invest internally, to escape the need for external motivation, and fuel the creative voice from within.

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