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.
“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.
I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic as soon as it was available. I loved almost everything about it.
Read it right away if you haven’t.
Now maybe you’re not a fan of Gilbert, or you’ve heard that the book has some hippy-mystic, woo-woo ideas in it. And maybe that’s why you’re keeping your distance from it. If that’s the case, I’ll just share a few ideas Gilbert brings up that may still resonate with you.
And that’s all I’ve got. Which is plenty—so much so that I’m still trying to remember these things. Every day.
“Valid criticism does you a favor.”
This quote popped up on swissmiss a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been thinking a lot about it in regards to creative work.
It’s absolutely true.
But it probably wouldn’t be if you removed the word valid.
That’s the key.
The problem for some of us is that we don’t take validity into account when receiving critiques.
Some of us don’t realize that the people giving us feedback may not be trying to help us improve what we’re doing as much as they’re trying to assuage their own fears or protect their own positions. This is not usually consciously or maliciously done. It’s just a misplaced survival mechanism.
If the critique doesn’t…
help you build upon the strengths of what you’ve already got (or who you already are),
point out something you honestly might have considered if you hadn’t been so close to the work,
and invigorate you to keep forging ahead,
but instead diminishes the earnest effort you put into something, denies your strengths and asks you to be something that you’re not—
well then, let it go.
P.S. The Sagan quote served as a springboard that sent me in a new direction; it’s from a book that’s not about the creative process, but instead, another fascinating topic.
P.S.S. Read this article.
Opinions shared here are my own. They should not be seen as a representation of my employer's views.