Have I really reached the halfway point to Elle Luna’s The 100 Day Project?
Why yes, yes I have.
As with many challenges that seem daunting at the outset, this one has flown by and taught me so much. I never want it to end. Yet it will, but I will keep exploring the lessons and the curiosity the project has piqued in me.
Before I continue, you can read more about what this project is and why I’m participating here: Start Already.
Now, here are the lessons I’ve gathered during the past 50 days.
Poetry may not be popular, but that’s no reason to deny that being a poet is an essential part of who I am. I cannot run from it or hide it. And haiku? Interesting phrases and lines find me everywhere, at all times. I am inspired to say much with little. And while it takes discipline to create a haiku every day, it’s not work. Most other writing is work for me. This is not.
I love design, and I’ve been surprised that a handful of my designs for this project have made me think, “THAT. That is something good worth exploring further.” Other designs just offer a glimpse of goodness. Some, offer nothing at all—except proof that I’m trying, experimenting, learning. Of course all of them are mere sketches. I don’t spend time obsessing over the typography, but I will for the designs I play with in the future.
A few of the designs feature my own watercolors. Why did I stop painting? Time to start again!
The best things really are the simplest.
I always wanted to be able to take amazing, photojournalistic pictures of people. I felt inferior for not being able to do it. One: that’s silly. Two: maybe I need to embrace what I do enjoy—photographing architecture and nature. Doing so is proving to be a spark of goodness I might be able to ignite.
Inspiring people are everywhere. I mean it. One of the best things about this challenge has been discovering a community of artists. Many of these people might be skittish about calling themselves artists, but when you look at their work—wow times 100.
Light or thin type makes me happy. It just never looks as beautiful in my jpgs as it does in my psds. Designer friends, who’s willing to giving me a tutorial on this?
Once in awhile I’m funny. But only in hindsight.
One day, I will create something lovely that involves transparent shapes. It’s a new goal!
Having the intellectual and creative energy to participate in this challenge has affirmed that shifting my career was the right decision. I didn’t realize just how drained I had become attempting to be creatively “on” all the time during my twenty years of #agencylife.
People say “creating art for art’s sake” like it’s a bad thing, but it’s not. It’s rejuvenating. And ends up being so much more.
And that’s my report on these first 50 days of the project. I’m looking forward to seeing how the second half unfolds. You can even join me—participating in half the project is better than not participating at all. Or if you just want to observe for now, follow the project at #the100dayproject, or my own progress at #100haikudesigns or @mslierre.
Thanks for reading and for supporting me.
If you want my blood pressure to go up, just tell me that I need to push my work (or someone else's). The creative process may be hard at times, but does it have to be so adversarial? Does it have to be a fight?
I don't think so. Yet it often is because of ego run amok or a fear of being irrelevant. Someone doesn't see enough of themselves in the work, so they feel the need to shove things in their preferred direction. Or they don't think they're doing their job if they agree too much with what they see.
The best teachers, mentors and managers I've known have displayed the confidence to use the opposite approach. Instead of applying external force, they dug deeper into the work. They would find (or help me find) the little sparkles that suggested a gem yet to be uncovered. There was still work to be done, but I had a hand reaching to pull me up rather than push me down. It was a tug rather than a war.
Now I try to use that approach when I whenever I'm reviewing work. Getting to a sketch or first draft is hard enough. I want to honor that by making sure people know that with me, they're not going into battle. They're going on an adventure of discovery.
The word challenge seems like it's become a buzzword. You're supposed to seek out new challenges and make sure you stay challenged in your professional and personal life. If you're not being challenged, if you're not somehow toiling to overcome a new obstacle or master a new skill, you're going to be bored and won't grow.
I can see the logic of that and agree with it. Just not entirely.
Because I can also see how a person could glorify challenges to the point that they're no longer stopping to celebrate and enjoy where they're at and what they've achieved. That they need a little fight, a little grit to feel what they're doing is valid. That they need the adrenaline of a challenge to feel alive.
That seems a bit manic and not very mindful to me.
I wonder what would happen if we were better at embracing the inherent flow of life. What if recognized that the rhythm of work and rest isn't established only by the calendar? There will be times in our jobs and in our lives that will be busier and harder than others, just as there will be times that are slower and easier. Often, when we forget that (or don't recognize it in the first place), we work against the rhythm by trying to manufacture one state when we're in the other one.
Of course, if it feels like you've been in one of these states for an extended period of time, you might need to adjust your vision. Perhaps you haven't been observant or curious enough to recognize opportunities to climb up the next hill or coast down it. I don't think flow means dropping out. I think it means being actively aware while also being accepting. Being content without being stagnant. Desiring more, yet still loving with what you have.
Achieving that balance isn't simple, for sure, but I see it as a much more worthy challenge than those we'd drum up just to prove we're still relevant.
It’s usually mentioned with a certain amount of guilt. We feel that we should endeavor to escape it, and that doing so is good for us. What is this place that’s apparently not good for us?
Our comfort zones.
I’ve been thinking about our aversion to them and wondering if we’ve been looking at them the wrong way. What if instead of of trying move beyond them, we moved deeper into them?
No, I’m not talking about remaining in your PJs and never leaving your house.
I’m saying that maybe, just maybe, there’s a key buried within the things that make us feel the most at ease that could unlock our potential. Better than trying to abandon them and trying something completely new for the sake of newness. Although we might find new, fruitful experiences by more fully exploring the things that make us feel at home and relaxed. Diving below the surface of these comforts might end up stretching us in a more sincere way than jumping out of the pool and into a lake halfway around the world.
This is also not to say that getting a different perspective on a regular basis isn’t important or shouldn’t be done. We need that to keep our thinking and creativity fresh. But why be dramatic about it?
That’s what I’m weary of—the belief that change has to be big and overt. There’s no need to abandon the best, most natural parts of who you are—or fight with them—in order to grow.
As the conversation about equality in the workplace continues to unfold, I’ve been particularly interested in the examples of behavior that’s deemed acceptable (or praiseworthy) in men but not in women. What’s curious to me isn’t just that this is happening. It’s that often women, as well as men, are perpetuating this.
I was blind to this for a long time—probably because I didn’t want to believe it. When one of my grandparents was relieved upon hearing that mostly men worked at my first job after college, I was inwardly dismissive. It was 1996. Women were now supportive of each other, weren’t they? They weren’t the backstabbing and catty caricatures I’d seen in 1940s movies, were they?
Recently, as I reflected on my twenty years in the workforce, I realized that not all my female coworkers had been helpful or fair to other women. I remembered example after example of women applying a double standard when reviewing the performance of other women. While male coworkers were applauded for their conviction, passion and dedication in stating their opinions—especially in the face of opposing viewpoints—these women complained that their female coworkers who did the same things as the men were defensive, emotional and inflexible.
Men were allowed to disagree and stir up debate. Women were not.
Perhaps because there’s still an unwritten rule that women are still expected to be compliant and accommodating, pleasing and amiable. Even Gen X girls grew up learning that rule to some extent. Many of us continue to follow it and perpetuate it. We think we have to be the nurturers and the caretakers women have always been—above all else.
There’s nothing wrong with being nurturing and caring, of course. But shouldn’t we allow ourselves and each other to be more than that (and, by the way, encourage men to share in the responsibilities of caring and nurturing)?
Shouldn’t the freedom to speak one’s mind without fear of reproach, be extended to both genders?
We should all be in this together, right?
I certainly hope so. And I believe that continuing to discuss the subtle ways gender inequality still exists brings us one major step closer to living in that kind of world.
P.S. You probably know what the title of this blog is riffing off of, but if you don’t, go here.
“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.” – Goethe
I’ve had ideas percolating for months. Ways of merging words, poetry, haiku with design, film, theater.
Who am I, someone who has spent most of her professional life as a writer, to dip my toes into the pond of visualization?
As a recent book reminded me, “Who am I not to?”
I will fail, and I may have to abandon some ideas.* But I will learn along the way. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll also find co-conspirators and collaborators to help—and enhance—my more ambitious ideas. It’s tempting to want this all to be mapped out before I begin, which pretty much ensures I’ll never get started.
This article and this one, Ira Glass’ famous words on taste and “the gap,” Painting in the Dark, the aforementioned book (and related podcast, especially the episodes with Elizabeth Gilbert), and this print remind me of the power of doing. Of getting started. Of taking the first step and not getting so concerned about steps two, three, ten and eighteen.
With that in mind, I’m participating in Elle Luna’s The 100 Days Project. My project will involve writing haiku and pairing each one with an image I’ve created. I don’t expect each entry to be perfect or great…maybe some days they won’t even be good…but at the end of the 100 days, I hope to have a few gems I can polish further.
You can follow along with my progress on Instagram.
I hope you will.
And more than that, I hope you’ll take the action you’ve been merely considering.
Goethe was right. There is power in it.
* So far failures include a just-for-fun book cover design that was greeted with crickets by the author (and almost everyone else), as well as some space designs for Society6 that ran into some compression issues—design friends if you have a couple hours to advise (ahem, teach) me where I went wrong and answer the question “Can these designs be saved?” let me know. Thank you.
When Ellsworth Kelly died in late December, I remember reading responses to tweets announcing his death. Sadly, the trolls were out in full force. They ripped into the late Mr. Kelly—and modern art. But that sort of vitriol usually indicates a lack of understanding.
The reason Mr. Kelly's work (and that of many other modern artists) captivates me is this: it forces me to notice the beauty of what I might normally take for granted. It asks me to slow down and take a mindful approach to what I see. To gaze rather than glance.
In doing so, I often marvel at the perfection of simplicity and the fact that we live in the sort of world where there are more colors than we can count. Doesn't each one deserve to be enshrined on a single canvas?
To me, there's something joyous and creative about asking yourself what a simple abstract composition makes me remember and feel. Looking at Damien Hirst's polka dots, I can instantly recall the unique beauty and pleasure of opening a 64-crayon box of Crayolas for the very first time. (Thank you, Mr. Hirst!) I certainly appreciate the technical skill of artists who replicate real-life scenes, objects or people, but I find it's more difficult to engage my imagination when everything is more spelled out for the viewer.
The work of abstract artists actually requires skillful technique, too, which many of us forget or never realized in the first place. That's why I love the video below. If I haven't given you pause to consider modern art in a different way, this might do the trick.
I love that science can help us understand our world and universe, and I appreciate that scientists endeavor to discover how things work. Their discoveries have obviously helped humanity a great deal, and I applaud them for continuing to dispel the myths that have kept so many people living fearfully rather than freely. Hooray for science (or SCIENCE! to all my trivia friends out there).
Yet the goals of scientists can make me a little sad at times, too. Do I really want to know the formula for everything? Do I want love and beauty to be reduced to equations? Do they become less transcendent that way?
Perhaps if I had the mind of a mathematician rather than a poet, the answers would be yes, yes and no.
And I wonder if science will one day find a way to externally switch my brain from one thinking preference to another.
But should it?
Is that how the dystopia so many authors have warned us of begins—by making everything controllable and orderly?
There's no way I want to return to the days when everything was clouded by dark superstitions. I just want at least a little bit of mystery to always be in the world, filling our hearts with curiosity and wonder. My one hope is that even if scientists one day, thousands of years from now, figure out how everything works, the reason why will always remain out of reach.
I am still looking back at my poetic past to help boost my confidence as I continue to reboot the poet part of myself. In doing so, I was reminded of a project from ten years ago that never quite got of the ground.
I had shared several haiku I had written with a graphic designer, and he was going to create poster designs featuring each one. He never finished. At the time, I was disappointed.
Now I am not.
Now I know that I can design them myself. And I will.
I love how evocative poetry can be as words on a page or screen, but I’ve also been curious about what more succinct poetic forms would look like when paired with visual art.
Before I get around to that though, I thought I’d share some of the haiku that will be part of this project.
He likes to pretend
That the car commercial leaves
Guard him like angels
Just before the end
Our air tastes of razored mint
Violence made sterile
Every blue starched guard
Must wholeheartedly conspire
To share their customs
She was bright knee socks,
marble cake and Scrabble tiles
crooked on the board
Sharp yet buttery
Comfort in a gourmet guise
If she could give you
A star in the galaxy
It would taste like tea
So my reentry into blogging obviously isn't going so well. That's because I've been focused on another blog (well actually two, since I also manage my company's blog). It's the reboot of my passion project, LierreStudio. Head on over there for a more visual, curated take on blogging. I have lots of great things in the hopper, and I look forward to sharing them with you.
I hope to return to this blog sometime in the next couple of months, but life may have other plans.
As always, I hope you'll stay tuned.
Opinions shared here are my own. They should not be seen as a representation of my employer's views.