September, 29

Hunting the Elusive Creative Side Hustle

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While sheltering-in-place, I find myself reeling between manic fits of productivity and total torpor. Surely, I say to myself, I can find some kind of cadence and develop a creative side hustle that will keep the grocery deliveries coming as my industry — the media — endures another seismic contraction. Where does the time go? Between distance-schooling, writing, and day-drinking, there must be a few moments to make my fortune too, I bet.

“The best way to find time is to choose a side hustle that is something you love to do,” says financial author Ramit Sethi in a recent Fast Company feature, How to find time for a side hustle when you’re staying at home

Sethi’s words resonated with me and compounded thoughts I’ve had these past weeks in quarantine. They go like this:

Right what you no.

Astute observers and cyberstalkers might have noticed that I’ve changed my job title on all relevant social media. I went from being an “interim editor” to just plain “editor” after six months at the newspaper that I run. Nothing has changed other than I feel less “interim,” a term that, I suppose, is more elegant than “temporary,” though it likewise suggests a kind of professional bench-warming until the real editor arrives. Well, I here I am — so I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

I suspect that this promotion (if you can call it that) is actually the result of the brass getting tired of autocorrect constantly changing “interim” into “infinity.” “Infinity Editor” is too much of a commitment. Note, that I’m grateful to be the editor. Though I’m sure I’ll come to miss occupying the quasi-quantum space of being interim. Like Schrodinger’s cat, or at least its litterbox — wherein I was either the shit or I wasn’t but really just kinda both. And yet…

What does this portend in this particular Coronamoment?

Job security?

Ha. I work in newspapers fella, never heard of such a thing.

This is a role, an acting gig, baby — I’m J. Jonah Jameson, I’m Perry White. I’m Ben Kenobi and the blue pencil is mightier than the lightsaber. Unfortunately, the force of cash flow is not with me so I’m fixin’ for the aforementioned creative side hustle — something in the liminal space between art and media. I used to think these two polarities in my career averaged out as entertainment. Now, I’m seeking the median between art and media — and the median is the message.

We know this much — whatever the message is, it must meet the moment in its transmission, which is necessarily digital (who wants to pick up print media when viruses can survive on newsprint for hours?). However, I don’t want to find myself merely making more internet in blogs, podcasts or videos — which is what I know how to do (my own moribund blog notwithstanding). The sheer amount of content available to stream amounts to millions of viewing hours that would take thousands of lifespans to view. Yet, many a media malcontent sides with Bruce Springsteen who sang there are 57 channels and nothin’ on. I’m determined to avoid this trap as I grope in the dark for a meaningful model. I know. It’s the content, stupid. 

This is where I buried the lede.

So, this is what I’m currently thinking: this Project X should be some kind of organizing principle for creative careerists — like me — who enjoy inspo and hacks, gonzo backstories and whose artsy hubris has mellowed into self-deprecating humor. You know, stories for crazy artist people whose inner prodigies ate the red M&Ms and who’d prefer not dying in order for their genius to finally be recognized. I’m cooking up some notions and invite you to come with me as I do because, whatever way this manifests, I’m manifesting it for us. Stay tuned.

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