Lessons from The 100 Day Project
You guys. Today I reached day one hundred of The 100 Day Project. It's been a journey, and in this post I want to share some of the lessons I've learned along the way.
First, to give a quick overview, the 100 Day Project is a worldwide Instagram challenge to create something every day for 100 days. It was started by an artist, so many of the participants are artists who use the project as a way to stretch their creativity, hone in on a skill, or simply try something new.
I heard about it on some podcast I was listening to earlier this year and was intrigued by the concept. Normally I'm not into things like this, but for some reason, this challenge sparked my interest.
Why I Did It
I don't know if I could have voiced this at the beginning, but I knew I was needing some sort of structure around my painting practice, and even more importantly, a way to prioritize it. It may sound surprising, but the painting and creative side of my business is often what gets pushed out first when the demands of running the business feel more pressing. I was craving more time to simply create.
But to be totally honest, a big reason why I did the project at first was motivated from a marketing standpoint. I've always had a hard time consistently posting engaging content on Instagram, which is one of my biggest marketing platforms, and thought this project would give me something interesting to post every day. This may be a shallow reason, but it's true.
Though indeed, I did get a nice boost to my Instagram page from doing this project, the long-term benefits were on a much more personal level. In hindsight, I don't think I could have kept going if marketing were my only motivation.
So, on April 3, I started the project with gusto. At the outset I was filled with ideas about what I wanted to paint. I never made an official "list," but in my mind I had tons of ideas, or so I thought. I called my project "My 100 Delights," with the theme of painting the little things in my daily life that I find beautiful and inspiring.
As is the case with any long-term project, the beginning part was easy. I was fueled by the initial excitement of trying this new thing, and was brimming with ideas of things to paint. For the first three weeks or so, I got to my studio every day around 8am and did my painting first thing. I knew that I would need to prioritize it in my schedule if I was going to make it a habit, and eventually it became a natural part of my daily routine.
When It Got Hard
Around Day 25 I realized I didn't have quite as many ideas as I thought. So, more often than not, I would go into the day not necessarily knowing what I was going to paint. The harder challenge, though, was making the time for it. My average time on each piece was about an hour, which isn't a ton, but it's also not a tiny amount. That 8am getting to the studio thing definitely didn't last. Though I did make it happen every day, there were many days, especially on the weekend, when I simply didn't feel like getting in there and doing it.
Around Day 50, I was about ready to be done. Fifty seemed like a nice, doable amount; still challenging, but manageable. Except that it was only the halfway point.
The second half of the project is where I struggled the most, but it's also what made the project worth it.
What I Learned
1. Disciplined practice pays off
This may be the most obvious one, but I was amazed at how much more comfortable I became with my painting after just a few weeks of practicing it daily, especially with subjects that were a bit different than what I typically paint. It became steadily easier to achieve my desired result, and my paintbrush began to feel more and more like an extension of my hand. Seeing this type of progress in my painting ability became my primary motivation later in the project.
2. I have more time than I thought
If you had asked me before this project if I had an extra hour every day to do whatever I wanted, I would have laughed at you. But that hour miraculously made itself available, and has made me realize that, at least most of the year, I can find at least 5-7 hours a week to use however I choose.
3. Whatever I prioritize, happens
I was able to find that hour each day because I made it a priority. And what do you know, my other work still got done! This project proved to me that, if I make something a priority, it brings clarity to what I most need to be doing, and everything else has a way of falling into place.
4. Little by little
There's a French saying that goes, "Little by little, a bird builds its nest," and this project really taught me that. Large projects can be broken down into small, manageable parts. Though I'm very ready to be done with this particular project, now I'm already dreaming about some other projects I can be taking small steps towards completing.
My biggest takeaway from this project is that, as an artist, I need to make creativity and the refinement of my craft a priority. I easily get distracted by the other demands of my business. Though they're important, they are there to support my artwork, not the other way around.
What project will I work on next? Now that I have 5-7 extra hours each week, I've been dreaming up some possibilities. This summer and early fall, I'm going to use that time to get myself back into the pottery studio. I really love working with clay, but often get out of the rhythm of doing it. Be on the look out for some May We Fly homewares soon. ;)
Would I do this project again? Absolutely.
But first I'm going to treat myself to some ice cream.