5 Lessons Learned From #The100DayProject So Far

It’s about two months into my 100 Day Project, which is part of Elle Luna‘s official #The100DayProject. This is the second year of the challenge, which was originally inspired by Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion, which was based on her equally amazing essay. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself and favor and do so now.

100 day challenges are fairly common, especially on Instagram. One of the first I participated in was #100HappyDays. The challenge was based on the age-old advice that in order to quell anxiety and become a happier person,  one has to start recognizing happiness in the everyday. The challenge required people to share this discovered happiness and post it on Instagram, each day for 100 days. And wouldn’t you know it, people would fill their Instagram feed with positive and inspiring moments. The on-demand nature of personal social sharing kept people accountable for sticking to the challenge. Hopefully when the challenge was over, they made finding everyday happiness a daily habit. It sure made a difference for me.

I participated in the #100DayProject last year but didn’t complete it. (I tried to challenge myself based on time, not completed works). This year I’ve managed to keep working on the project, but have slightly fallen behind. However, so far the whole endeavor has provided me a few lessons about building habits and the creative process:

  1. Committing to doing one thing every day for 100 days is hard.
    .
    I have a habit of pretending to be a far more disciplined person than I actually am. I also go to extremes, such as when I thought I could wake up at 5 am every day to do creative work before going to the gym and starting a full work day. The only time I have ever been successful at that was when I did grand jury duty for two weeks and all I really did all day afterward was try to read Infinite Jest inside the court room.
    .
    When I started this current project, I think it was the first day that I set my alarm for 5 am. The alarm went off, a disgruntled and sleepy Eric handed me my phone, I hit the snooze, and that was that.
    .
    Since then, I’ve realized that every day is different and some daily habits (especially those accomplished before the workday) are better when it has a fixed time slot. For instance, going to the gym at 6 am for an hour and a half was doable (mostly because I barely thought about it). For me, sitting and waiting for inspiration to happen, especially first thing in the morning, was impossible. I’ve since learned I’m a much more creative at night. I also changed my strategy by making it possible to draw wherever I was. I kept a book and a pen and whether it was a long train ride or a break at work, I would do drawings to meet my quota.
    .
  2. Committing to work on one project every day for 100 days is hard (and can get boring).
    .
    Full disclosure, I didn’t know about this year’s project until the day it started on April 19th. I came up with my project in under an hour and decided to do #100DaysofGesture to challenge myself. While it was fun to sketch Prince on the day of his passing (RIP), it realized that the project itself was too broad for me to keep coming up with ideas and being challenged. It’s probably against the rules, but I decided to change my project halfway to #100DaysofNarrativeIcons. So far, I love it. It reminds me of emojis, but I love using it as a way to tell a story.
    .
  3. The habit of creating something on a regular basis sparks new ideas.
    .
    I initially got so bored with doing gesture drawing every day that I actually came up with a few new ideas of different projects to do next time. When my brain would scrounge around for ideas, a few connections were made that not only could show off my drawing abilities, but add some sense of humor and tell a story.
    .
  4. Half the battle of sticking to something is forgiving yourself if you fall behind.
    .
    I fell behind by a few days. I was this close to forgetting the whole thing. Instead, I sat down one night this week and planned how I could catch up. It’s probably cheating again, but I came up with a strategy on how to create fresh new drawings more than once a day. 
    .
  5. You have to be accountable for the quality of your work.
    .
    I will admit, there are a few drawings where I phoned it in. I focused on just getting in my daily quota instead of being 100% happy with the results. However, as with most projects and work, not giving it your best effort doesn’t help anyone. It’s one thing to look at someone else’s work and say “I can do better”, but it’s an entirely different matter when you look at your own work and think the same thing. That thought has helped push me to think about the quality of work I can deliver and how else I can further push myself.
    .

So while it’s the official halfway point of the project, I am excited to continue through to the end. Feel free to follow along on my Instagram account @mynameisreb.  Let me know if you’ve ever struggled with creating a daily habit in the comments section below.

Starting #100DaysofGesture

 

Around this time last year, I read the excellent book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna. Along with the release of her book, she launched the #100DayProject with The Great Discontent. I launched my own project focused on #100HoursOfPainting, but quickly realized the challenges of making a commitment based on time versus producing a tangible thing (you don’t do it!).

Attempting to paint for one hour a day seemed like an easy feat, especially on days when I would be able to put in 3 – 5 hours and get ahead of the daily schedule. It was great while I was doing grand jury duty and could paint between 5 – 8 am every morning, but then I started a new job and trying to fit in an hour within an already overly packed schedule was too much.

I also realized that the point of the project is not just to commit to sitting down every day to work on a project, but to produce a completed piece and feel a sense of accomplishment.

This year my project is #100DaysofGesture, focusing on a loose style of sketching usually used for warming up before figure drawing. I always liked the unfinished feeling of drawings done in gesture sketching style and how it has a dreamlike quality. It’s likely that most of the drawings will be portraits of people, whether from real life or photographs.

Throughout college and the past few years, I always liked going to drink-n-draws and figure drawing sessions, drawing from family photographs, and experimenting with capturing a person’s mood or expression in the sketch. I remember the summer I was interning in Chicago (and was incredibly broke) when I would spend my time riding the train and sketching strangers on the subway.  It was fantastic practice in being able to capture how someone looked as quickly (and conspicuously) as possible.

I also have done a series of paintings based on photos of myself and one of my sisters from childhood. The focus hasn’t always been to make sure the paintings “look just like us”, but more so to capture the childlike quality of our expressions in those photos. Recently I was visiting my parents and discovered a large box of photographs from my childhood, so I’ll have ample inspiration for this project.  I’ve also been wanting to focus on sketching and possibly caricature for an upcoming project I’m working on.

The challenge of this project for me is to share work right away, and only having one day at the most to tweak and perfect it. Having to post it on Instagram publicly will leave my project open to criticism, but it’s better than never showing anything at all.

You can follow my project on Instagram through #100DaysofGesture.