I was out with friends last weekend and we were all catching up. I mentioned to my friend who’s a painter and who introduced me to #the100dayproject that I had finished all 100 days. “Whaaaat?!” she replied, “that’s a huge deal, how come you haven’t talked about it anywhere?!” For those of you that haven’t been following along on social media #the100dayproject is a challenge for creatives to pursue their art for 100 straight days, pushing though slumps, gaining a rhythm and learning new skills. You can learn more about it here.
The truth is that #the100dayproject was so successful for me that I’ve just kept plugging along everyday tending to my creativity and writing. I knew that the finish of the project happened sometime last week (or maybe the week before) but I was content to continue working on my creative project.
Which means that #the100dayproject did exactly what I wanted it to do for my creative life.
As I think about the project, what I accomplished, what worked, what didn’t, what pitfalls I had along the way, I thought I would compile a list of things I learned while doing the project that will help me the next time.
Don’t Worry about Medium
I am a writer but I also paint and use other creative mediums. While my goals for this project were to write more I four out of seven days of the week the first forty days of the project I spent painting. Some people may see this as counter-intuitive, an act of distraction (writers love a good distraction) or unfocused but the painting helped my writing in a few key ways. First, it made the writing I did higher quality the first half when I was painting more. When I sat down I was focused and had if not fully formed, better developed ideas. Second, around the forty day mark something shifted. What I had been working on in my head while I painted became my focus. I abandoned my paintbrushes and took up my keyboard and got to work every day. Writing smaller pieces for the blog, working on larger blog pieces and giving life to a story I have been wanting to tell in the form of a full-fledged manuscript.
The painting fed the creativity if the writing. I learned to not worry about what I was doing each day to meet #the100daychallenge and began to trust that it was all conditioning the same creative muscle. Just like in physical muscle conditioning, you can’t do the same exercise over and over and over again to build the muscle well. You have to do different exercises that all come at the muscle from different approaches.
Tell Someone That Will Cheer for You
Often creative work is a work of solitude. So I told a few friends what I was doing who would understand, ask me about how it was going and generally cheer me on as I tackled #the100dayproject. This is a practice for creativity that extends beyond just this project, but I found it particularly helpful when trying to work 100 days straight to have a few people cheering me on.
It’s also helpful if you live with other people for them to know your goals so they can help create a space and a schedule that allows you to get this work done. Not to mention it’s helpful for them to understand why the dining room table might be overtaken with paint and paint supplies for a solid 100 days!
Have a Plan so You Miss Fewer Days
We did most of our family travel for the year smack in the middle of #the100dayproject. I was worried I would lose my momentum or quit the project all together with most of June being away. Instead, I got a plan together to make creating while traveling possible. I got a sketchbook and a small bag of paint pens, I set up a section in my phone to voice dictate writing ideas and I looked at my time while traveling differently.
At home I get up every morning to write and I paint in the evenings. It’s a pretty set routine but when you travel you don’t have that routine, so I looked for ways to squeeze in a bit of painting here or some writing there. It got done on flights and in car rides, on the tube and in hotel rooms. But having a plan, thinking through what kind of tools would be most successful for the situation and getting them prepped helped me be successful when my schedule was uncertain.
Forgive Yourself for the Missed Days
A few years ago I began the practice of lying in bed at night and forgiving myself for the small things I had done that day and working my way up to the big ones. It was one of the tools I was using to deal with my perfectionism. I was telling a friend about it and how much it was helping when she said “oh that’s the St Ignatius prayer practice!”
When I say I completed #the100daychallenge it means I crossed that finish line of the hundredth day creating. Did I perfectly complete all 100 days? No, I missed a few here and there (I actually found I missed less as the project went on, not more). But the goal of the project is not perfection, but presence to your creative work. To show up and do the work however imperfectly. Forgiving myself for the missed days made it easier to return the next day, not sweating it and for me to finish the project successfully.
Overall would I do #the100dayproject again? Absolutely.
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