Evenings, Weekends and “Sick Days”

Here is a topic that has been spread throughout my broadcasts, posts and general creative process for most of my life and something I should have written a focused post on before now. So I want to take a few minutes and talk about something important to me based on my own experience and how I live my life.

The foundation for the Signalnoise platform was built not because I had a business plan, or an entrepreneurial escapade or a project manager telling me what do do. I built everything on my own time, because I had to. Because it’s fun. What a lot of people don’t know is that I worked as a website designer for about 12 years before making the leap to go full freelance only last year. While I was working at various agencies it was evenings, weekends and “sick days” that counted the most. If you look in my Gallery, 80% of that stuff is personal work.

I would work 9 to 5, run home to grab some dinner, then work until 2am on the many personal projects I had on the go. I never stopped, and there were huge stints where my friends wouldn’t see me because I was at home drawing, or animating in Flash, or creating a series of art pieces in Photoshop, or redesigning my website, etc. To me, the stuff I was doing during evenings wasn’t “work”, it was stuff I couldn’t wait to get home in order to keep going on. I loved doing it … it was a lifestyle, not a hobby.

Weekends were the same, only then I could spend a huge chunk of daytime hours plugging away on those personal projects. There really is nothing better than a rainy Sunday and a clean schedule. I would set my alarm real early to get a jump on that prime real estate. I’d plop in front of the computer or drawing table with a nice coffee and that would be my day.

“Sick days” are in quotes because … well, maybe once or twice I called in sick to work in order to stay home and work on my stuff. Your place is never quieter than when people think you’re sick. But that’s bad advice, don’t do that.

We live in a world of constant distraction. I’m not talking about the day job, I’m talking about everything else that eats away the hours so you constantly hear people saying “I wish I had more free time” or “I’d do more designing is I weren’t so busy”. In my experience, that isn’t caused by a lack of free time, it’s because that time is eaten up by social stuff, television, video games, general goofin’ off, whatever else. Using your free time wisely is a choice, not something you hope happens on it’s own. Signalnoise would not exist if I didn’t pour those hours into it. I had to. I read about all those classical artists from back in the 16th century or whatever creating because they were compelled to create. I guess it’s the same for me, and has been since I was drawing at the age of 4.

Obviously everyone’s life is different, comprised of infinitely different things. Sometimes it’s just not feasible to steal time away, and I understand that, but everyone should try to make the time to do what they love through whatever means. It’s a no-brainer to me.

If you are a creative person you should look forward to evenings, weekends and “sick days”. Genuinely look forward to that time. Not because you can sit on the couch and shut your brain off, but because that’s when you work on the stuff that truly matters. The stuff you create for you, from your heart.

When I was in grade 1 I remember racing home from school to keep working on that drawing I started the night before. Things really haven’t changed. It’s a lifestyle, man.

15 Comments

  1. Cool post, James!
    I totally see where you’re coming from, but I still learned something new – I wasn’t aware you “only” started going totally freelance something like 2 years ago. That’s encouraging in a way as I started my own business at the beginning of the year. If I could end up where you are in 1 year, I’ll be very happy. ;)

    Keep on doing your thing, even though I don’t understand half of what you’re doing, I really love the end results. :)

    (Little sidenote: You got a little mistake in this sentence “Your place is never quieter than when people think your sick.” – 2nd “your” should be “you’re”.)

  2. Good stuff man. Same here, helloMuller and ximeraLabs before that is all done in stolen time until this year.

  3. (PS: I’d love to see your old ‘day job’ work)

  4. Right on, James. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I have had my fair share of sleepless nights, but when you’re creating stuff that you love it’s more than worth it.

  5. I used to be this way, too…… but then I got married. :)

  6. There’s the proverbial nail James and you hit it right on it’s head.

    I love my 9-5 design job but it’s that moment on my bus journey home where I’m thinking of ideas or new illustrations to create when I become the most excited. I realise that I’ll have an entire evening to kill in front of a computer and create something entirely of my own thinking.

    Weekends are the same as you’ve said, one massive chunk of time to get into the flow. It’s certainly cut into my social time and other hobbies but the creation of a piece of work is always a much better pay-off. I feel as though I’m getting something done, progressing my style and learning new tricks.

    I’m also incredibly lucky to have an understanding wife who doesn’t mind the amount of hours I take up staring at a screen! She understands my desire to create and it’s another motivating factor!

  7. Great post James, thanks for sharing.

  8. I was thinking about your approach the other day when looking at the abduzeedo Drive giveaway. As you say, most of your work in your gallery is personal where you’ve seen something you wanted to do and have just gone and done it. I really love that attitude and it’s got me thinking completely differently to client and work acquisition.

    Before I would be waiting for clients to come to me. My view was, If my portfolio was (and still is) a little light it’s because I’ve not been given the opportunity to do anything – put the blame elsewhere!! But your approach of personal projects has given rise to being in demand – you’re showcasing your talents and building an enviable portfolio completely and utterly off of your own back.

    Power to you James, you’re a great inspiration.

  9. Nice post and a great perspective on things!

    True inspiration!

  10. wow! very cool and right thoughts. you are absolutely right, I’m also always waiting for evenings and weekends to go home and make my own stuff. But tha sad part of this lifestyle is that people think you are not sociable, closed person. I think you should right more posts like this, I mean just a philosophy, reflections on life, you good at it

  11. Love this post, man. I completely agree.

    Also, I showed this to my girlfriend and said “Seeee… She silently shook her head and walked away.

  12. Meza

    Hi James,

    Thank you for the post. Been unemployed for a month now and have the time create yet I am uninspired and procrastinate like hell.

    After this read I felt worse for not doing shit, therefore, I am off to a coffee shop to draw and design, let’s see what happens.

  13. Amen dude. Thanks for the post, this is really great stuff!

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