Two years ago I did two back-to-back months of NaBlo challenges. It was awesome. I loved writing every day and it did – as it was intended to – open the creative-floodgates. It also was the jumping off point for Dakota Midnyght Art. I began posting my artwork during those two months. Although the time-suck was brutal during the NaBlos (a post takes me at least couple hours to write, edit and create images for) I learned that posting about something is usually better than posting about nothing. I also learned that my readers (at least back then) were more tolerant of (and sometimes even interested in!) rambling topics – perhaps because I’ve never clearly defined my niche in this space. I promptly chose to ignore those lessons, I guess, because when I’m not writing every day I struggle with topic-ideas and consistency.
Anyway, my point is that I love every day projects: Do this for a week, try this for one month, for the next 15 days. (Now if someone would just create a drink 6-8 glasses of water each day challenge, and set it up with a unique hashtag! I need this one badly.) So when I discovered #The100DayProject I knew I wasn’t going to be able to walk away without trying it.
The challenge is built around the idea that creativity and skills blossom when you show up. It’s the same concept as “butt in chair time” for writers (Jim Butcher’s term for it). Sometimes artists think (and I’m totally guilty of this) that if you wait around long enough, the heavens will open and your muse will show up. (Note: sometimes this does happen. But you still have to keep her around and that takes work.)
Really, creativity is more like gardening. You go out there and turn the earth over to make it ready. You break your back (or your legs, or knees, or all of them) a little. You plant seeds. And then eventually, with proper care, something starts growing. But you still can’t walk away. You have to water those little seedlings and weed around them… you have to show up every day. Eventually you have a lovely bounty of tasty veggies and fruits to eat or share, and that’s enjoyable, but the work still isn’t over if you want to keep producing… wait, am I talking about gardening or creativity now?
To participate in #The100DayProject, you pick a single small creative task and do it over and over, every day, and you document the results on Instagram. (This article at The Great Discontent describes it much more comprehensively.) For my project, I knew I wanted to practice spontaneous skills and flow. I’ve gotten into the bad habit of feeling like everything must be perfect the first time – a function of my limited creative time. I also wanted to practice my creative writing skills. I wrote poetry and fiction once upon a time, a practice that fell to the wayside in my early college years. Lastly, I’m hoping this project will pull double duty. I have two art shows coming up and if enough of these turn out decently, I’ll use them as an installation for my February 2016 showing.
So, to fulfill these goals, I chose to challenge myself with writing a short poem and illustrating it in half an hour (ish). Every day. For 100 days. (Oof.) I’m already seven days in so there’s only 93 left!
Just like during the NaBlos, I’m loving how I’m forced to make space. I recently started using the pomodoro time management technique, which uses 25 minute periods for a task. I like how it’s manageable to carve out that much time and accomplish something without feeling overwhelmed. Finding 3o minutes to create these little sketches is still challenging with two kids, but it’s not a commitment that’s so huge I shy away from it.
The accountability (and encouragement) I’m receiving over on Instagram is really, really helpful. What I’m not loving is writing these short poems every day. It’s gotten a little easier and they’re better, I hope, but my first efforts were definitely lacking and I feel like everything lacks polish.
Although this is counter-intuitive, I’m also considering this a self-care practice. It’s different from the other self-care habits I’m trying to implement in the sense that it is about doing instead of relaxing, but it forces me to take time for myself, time to create, and I feel better when I’m making something each day. Now I’m just hoping I can keep it up. 🙂
(There’s a lot of really talented folks doing this along with me. Search using the #The100DayProject hashtag to see what other folks are up to.)