We at the start of a new year.  Hopefully 2021 will be a better year for all of us.  For many of us that may mean new jobs, or breaking out of old habits. Perhaps it’s the time to become more creative and to think outside of the box. It could mean starting a new project like developing writing skills or taking up a musical instrument or even playing online poker!  Whatever it is that speaks to you.

For many people these projects keep them feeling alive and well. Creativity is vital for wellbeing.  For Ji Lee, creative director at Facebook and Instagram “The act of doing something for me by me is hugely beneficial (for his mental health).  I’m taking care of myself”.  Below are some of the ways that we can all incorporate creative projects into our daily lives and enhance our wellbeing.

It doesn’t have to be something major

When thinking about side projects, people often think of them as major undertakings, like starting a business or developing some kind of new app.  But they don’t have to be so, they can be simple.   The motivation is to enhance your life, not make it more pressured.

Lee says “My approach is more simple than thinking about something that’s going to change your life or make you money.” According to Lee creative projects are more about allowing him to express his feelings about things that are happening around him.

It is useful according to Lee to break down these creative projects into three compartments: short term, mid term and long term. 30 minutes projects are obviously short term and can be anything, perhaps searching out a great photo or doing a sketch that speaks to you and sharing it with others on Instagram.

Projects that may take a few months are in the midterm category, perhaps making some kind of photo collage or short movie.   Writing a book, for example, would be in the long-term category. Breaking things up in this way can help to keep them in perspective and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and seeing them as potentially life changing and help you to enjoy the experience and see it as fun.

How to get inspired to do something new

Lee has a few ideas to help you to get inspired.  He suggests that you can get inspired by all kinds of things that are in your immediate surroundings. This could be from events occurring at the time or from family.  We all have been spending a lot of time with our families during this time.  Lee says “One of the most important strategies to me is to constantly observe my thoughts, and really hang on to the first idea I had and execute it”. Just be observant and notice how things make you feel and note them down so you don’t forget them.

The next stage is to implement some plan. You need to work out an actual idea or concept. Decide who it is aimed at and what is its purpose.  It will be helpful to have some parameters for the creative process because as Lee points out “More often than not these ideas don’t turn into any action or tangible thing.  I couldn’t put more emphasis that ideas are nothing in the end; doing is everything.”

Finding the time

People are always asking Lee how he finds the time to do these projects. For Lee the question is more about setting the time aside for the project.  A little less watching Netflix will help!   Lee says that if “making time for creative work requires the same discipline as going to the gym, then it has to be prioritized over the first half of a game or the fourth episode of Bridgerton.”   Lee says that he is involved in approximately three short projects each week and at the same time has larger long-term projects going on at the same time.

Interested in making that side project into something that earns money?

Sometimes it works out that your personal project becomes something that you would really like to get paid for.  According to Lee just sharing your work can have an enormous impact.  It could be that you are not 100% confident about the work, but you should still take the opportunity to share it.  You can show your personal work in a very different context than work that is done professionally.

Lee argues that “When you’re doing professional work, your main objective is to sell something. With personal projects, you’re not really trying to sell something. There’s a personal story behind that journey.”   According to Lee, this personal work interests people more because they are able to connect with it more.   Lee says he has been offered jobs in response to his personal projects.

Lee saw this happen with one of his most important personal projects.   The project involved him helping to renew his parent’s sense of purpose in the world.   Some years ago, his 78-year-old father was not in a good space, having problems with his health and struggling with depression.

Lee came up with an interesting idea.  Lee’s father is an artist and his mother is a writer.  He suggested that they open an Instagram account which would focus on letters to their grandchildren. The name of the account is @Drawingsformygrandchildren and has become hugely popular.

This project literally changed their lives.  In their 70’s they found themselves on a completely new career path that filled them with energy and excitement.  Lee says “They landed a book deal and are now financially independent when they weren’t before.”

Lee concludes that “These are examples of finding purpose for yourself and others around you that truly can have a difference.  I’d like to encourage people, especially when working from home without interaction, depressing news, to turn negative energy into thinking about the purpose of your life and doing something positive.”

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