Passion projects are those tantalizing, exciting, often elusive projects you’re itching to dive into but never seem to find time for. Creating a passion project might mean pursuing a specific goal that you’ve had for a while; it might mean simply exploring where a given interest takes you.
Academic life is demanding on your time and resources, and even the most ardent scholars and activists feel like they’re running on empty sometimes. In the face of busyness and stress, true passion projects are a chance to reclaim your physical, emotional, and mental energy, not just one more thing added onto your plate.
So, if you had the time to pursue something you loved, what would you do?
Set the stage
The term “passion project” can be misleading. Yes, some of us have an existing drive toward certain goals or projects. In other words, passion occasionally leads the way. But you don’t have to wait around for that elusive spark to start something meaningful.
Ask yourself some key questions to nudge things along: What ideas, subjects, questions, or activities do you find yourself daydreaming about? What kind of literature, scholarship, media, or other content do you turn to, time and again? How would you spend your time if no one was watching (and if your inner critic were silenced)? When you are with people you love and trust, what do you most enjoy talking about and experiencing?
Diving into self-reflection helps you set the stage for creating passion projects that truly mean something to you.
Do your research
Now you know what you want to do, but how do you go about doing it? One thing academics are excellent at is research, and passion projects are the perfect opportunity to put those skills to use!
Explore resources related to the project you are interested in pursuing for inspiration and guidance. Find examples of the type of project you want to pursue, be it creative, intellectual, philanthropic, activist, or otherwise.
As inspiring as it can be to immerse yourself in the type of work you’d like to create, also be sure to take time to trace origin stories when you can. Learn how your favorite filmmaker got their start or how that incredible nonprofit got off the ground. Remind yourself that meaningful things take time to build, and set reasonable, accessible expectations for your own passions.
Connect with your community
Passion projects don’t have to be solo endeavors. Finding the right collaborators can help you feel more motivated to get your goals off the ground. Talk to people, or join digital communities where people are engaging in the kind of work you want to do.
You may find you want to work together towards a common goal; you may find people that do their own thing alongside you, nudging you in the right direction. The important thing is to find the kind of companionship or structure that motivates and inspires you.
If you’re moved to write your first (or fifth) novel, NaNoWriMo is a thriving online hub for support and encouragement. If you want to make visual art, Inktober might be just the ticket. If you’re looking to volunteer at a local nonprofit, VolunteerMatch can be a helpful guide.
Whatever your passion, there’s likely a community already out there, eager to share it with you.
There’s no right way
Laying the groundwork, doing your research, and finding your fellow passionate creators are all great places to start. But the key to creating a passion project is embracing that there is no right way to do it.
Passion projects are what you make of them. In fact, you don’t have to “create” or “produce” anything at all. Lending a hand to a cause that matters to you, when you can, is a worthy project in its own right.
Ultimately, it is about allowing yourself the chance to feel joyful and engaged in your life and to access a different headspace than you may be able to within other work or life commitments.
Don’t look for something to do; do the thing that helps you thrive.