How did you come up with the idea for the sessions?
Side Project Sessions was born out of an observed – and personal! – pattern seeing personal creative work and ideas falling to the bottom of the to do list. I wanted to create a space where people who also struggle with procrastination, perfectionism, or not having enough time and space for themselves could feel accountable and focused, build a regular routine, and be surrounded by a community of creative and inspired people.
The regular event series is not about the hustle, making money or even networking, but rather making time for whatever you’ve been putting off – people have worked on anything from novels and illustration projects, to writing resignation letters or pruning a neglected houseplant.
It’s amazing to see people dedicate every second Sunday to their ideas and projects, build some regularity and get momentum for something they might have been putting off for years.
For the few who don’t know what the sessions are about, or how they work, could you describe them?
Side Project Sessions is a regular event series designed to help you find time, accountability and quiet for whatever idea, task or project you’ve been putting off.
Everyone arrives around 10am and after an all important caffeine boost from Padre Coffee, and then attendees get down to work in three focused work sessions. A 45-minutes on, 15-minutes off "peer-pressured productivity" format allows people to both find flow AND refresh their mind to get important work done.
You don’t have to have a fully-fledged side project to come along – the event is about creating time for anything you’re putting off, big or small.
It’s also an introvert-friendly space – there is no pressure to network or share your work, so lots of people come solo and deep dive into their work, and plenty of people hop up during the breaks and mingle if they so desire.
It’s a distraction-free environment, there’s snacks, and importantly, there is bottomless Padre Coffee!
Do you feel like a particular city has inspired you creatively more than others?
Melbourne is a very creative, open and accessible city – people are friendly and curious and I’ve found it’s been a wonderful place to build connections and community.
Similarly, I felt really inspired visiting NYC – in 2017, I did a three month stint and interviewed people for my side project Extraordinary Routines, and being surrounded by so many self-starters helped me see how important side projects are, yet how it can be difficult to find the time for them. I was also working from an incredible co-working space – FRIENDS run by Tina Roth Eisenberg who started CreativeMornings – and returned with so much energy and enthusiasm to get something started that centred around community and creativity.
Tell us briefly about YOUR daily routine - is it structured and regimented…does it involve coffee?
My daily routine is still very much a work in progress! As a freelancer, each day is different and at the whim of my idleness or the looming of a deadline. I’ve gone through bursts of waking up early, making coffee and sitting at my desk to write for 3-4 hours straight. Other days, I’ll do what can only be described as dilly-dallying all morning, hopping around cafes or libraries, or working till at night to meet a deadline I procrastinated on during the day.
Having a typical cycle of deadlines really helps – I have a handful of columns that I file the same time every month, a fortnightly newsletter, and a fortnightly event to organise so that helps provide structure as well as some security financially. I continue to experiment with my daily routine based on what I learn through my interviews.
What is your biggest motivator when it comes to your creative projects?
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in regard to the sessions?
Remembering that things take time – I can be somewhat impatient when it comes to creative ideas and projects, but the process of iterating, collaborating and growing Side Project Sessions has taught me that patience and perseverance are key. Also, you have to begin in order to make the necessary mistakes that will in turn shape what you do. Momentum is a wonderful thing!
How do you divide your time between projects?
One of the reasons I started Side Project Sessions was because I’d always struggle to be consistent with my side project Extraordinary Routines, so now I have at least three hours every fortnight to dedicate to writing up interviews and putting together my regular newsletter. I will also conduct interviews, share posts on social media and do research around that time.
The Melbourne Side Project Sessions event has become a well-oiled machine, so lately I’ve been committing around 1-2 days a week now to the licensing side of things and helping new hosts set up chapters in their city!
Who inspires you?
Everyone I’ve ever interviewed and my long wish list of people I’d like to! I really admire the work of Maria Popova of Brainpickings, author and arts Austin Kleon, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who was a children’s book author and artist.
What’s the most interesting piece of information/advice you’ve received from someone you’ve interviewed (if you can bring yourself to name one!)
I turn to so many gems depending on the current situation I’m in. At the moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Debbie Millman said about the ‘fear of the last opportunity. In her words, “I’ve always had this fear that this was the last opportunity for employment, the last opportunity for love, the last opportunity for creativity – and it’s just not true. It’s just this perpetual lie that I’m trying not to tell myself as much anymore."
What is your vision for the future of SPS?
It would be lovely to see the event series expand into more and more cities so people in all pockets of the globe and sidestep fear, procrastination and perfectionism and make time for themselves and their ideas. If we all gave life to our creative idea and did the small things that make our own daily lives more meaningful, then the world would no doubt be a little brighter.
And a few quick fire q’s...
Ideal Sunday from a.m to p.m.
Wake up, writing in my journal, head to a Side Project Sessions, then have lunch with new friends, and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening daydreaming and following my whims.
Best travel experience so far…
I lived abroad in Copenhagen for a year and I still dream about cycling around that city!
Three apps you can’t live without...
White Noise (for sleeping and working!)
(Above) Meet Sarah & Aleesha - Spring Side Project Sessions guest hosts!
This wonderful pair will alternate guest hosting whilst Madeleine is away on a 3-month trip to NYC. Aleesha Callahan (left) is an editor at Indesign Magazine, find her @aleeshacallahan on Instagram. Sarah Lawrey (right) is a graphic designer and branding whizz and you can find her @collectus.studio on Instagram.