to undermine the bitchy whisperer [i.e. Fear] deep within you that says: “pssssh…you can’t pull this off.”
I am an expert at trying ‘a thing’ on for size twirling around in it, asking a few people their opinion, and then finding some reason why it’s not for me (too tight, too high maintenance, not short enough, or someone else I knew had something just like it.) I was desperate for a self-inflicted project that I could commit to. I was so sick of getting excited about and letting myself down. Just once, I needed to be acquitted of quitting.
Do you dearly depart from your side projects too? Is there a calling that you keep letting go to voicemail? Or, actually, for me it is more like a tugging at my pant leg that I kept kicking away.
And then there are those people that are DOING that thing you want to do really well. The ones that spark *jealousy*. The ones whose work you see that make you say ‘I wish I made that.’ Or, ‘I had that idea 6 YEARS ago!’ Or, that creepy/vulnerable moment where you hear someone’s words and something in your chest shifts and it resonates within the caverns of your soul. That happened to me within the first few pages of Elle Luna’s Crossroads Between Should and Must, given to me by my friend, Missy. Afterward, a deep google search revealed the #100DayProject she and the Great Discontent were running, which helped people the world over stay accountable and inspired in their daily pursuits towards their creative goals.
But the dates were in April and at this point, Fall was in full force. I back-burnered the thought. Then, publishing house art director, Catherine Casalino came and spoke to my SVA typography class. She was doing #100DaysinWonderland inspired by the fictitious tome she was reading and the iconic NYC designer, Michael Beirut.
My Chrome search bar revealed, not only that his last name is actually spelled Bierut, but that he designed the FedEx logo, was also an SVA instructor, and had his students embark on a 100 Days Challenge on 11/7/07.
It was November 5th 8 years later when I saw that post. I had two days.
WHY 100 DAYS?
It’s memorable for one. And Jay Papasan, and Real Estate mogul Gary Keller show us in The One Thing that it takes 66 days to form a habit. As creative people, our drive and resolve to make is met with an indefatigable force [the bitchy whisperer above] that create painstaking delays in delivering our craft to the world. So, think of those other 34 days as an insurance policy against failure-to-ship.
There is also proof that the first 100 days in an era can dictate overall success in an endeavour, as exemplified by the scrutiny of the newly elected presidents. This 3 and a 1/3rd month gestation period is an opportunity to build momentum. And as Michael Watkins observes in his HBR article, Why the First 100 Days Matters, leaders “entering new roles can stumble badly and still recover. But it’s a whole lot easier if they don’t stumble in the first place. And that’s why the transition period matters so much.”
It can feel daunting to embark on something that can feel as though it would claim entire nights, weekends, or precious time away from family, friends, and professional pursuits.
But what if you committed just 20 minutes a day? That’s half of an already-shortened lunch break or two showers. Imagine the calories and water you’d be saving! Seriously, though, the length of time will vary, depending on your project, and can be way shorter like Zak Klauck’s 100 posters-in-a-minute project. We will get to what kinds of projects make a good fit later, but first, the other less worthy reasons for starting a project (other than squashing your fear that is).
100 DAYS OF GETTING BETTER FASTER
Imagine that sensation of starting something new. Snowboarding, for example. You sucked at it, granted. You can barely sustain momentum long enough to sneeze and lose balance before you have no other excuse for faceplanting, which seems to cause muscle memory amnesia. i.e., you used to have abdominal fortitude before you strapped yourself into a board and headed for the bottom of a hill. Maybe you are with a few people on the slope that suck worse. That’s comforting for a minute but then
WHISSSSSSSHHHHH….the pro’s whiz past you in a flash of color and sound. And they’re having the time of their lives.
At least that is how I saw it when I tried snowboarding for the first time on an aggressively sunny day on the icy slopes at Hunter Mountain in upstate New York. Except those pro’s I mentioned were actually 7-year-olds that come every winter with their fit European parents. The pros (and my boyfriend at the time) were far, far away on another hill, but one that could at least could still see from where I was. I could have phoned it in after my lesson as I had endured enough wipeouts on near zero-degree inclines to earn an adult hot chocolate in the lodge. That is where most of the other first timers in my class had gone. But what kept me from hanging with it and long after my comrades had hung up their bindings?
It was that feeling that when I did start coasting if only for a second, it was fun. It’s fun!
You feel a slight breeze. It’s thrilling and effortless; you forget that ache in your wrist and for a moment, you are in the flow and it’s phenomenal. It’s adrenaline, and pride, and excitation, and fear all served up in this flaming high-flying cocktail and you are crushing it, gliding down the slope until BUMP, you’re down again. If only you could sustain that momentum for a moment longer, multiply it by 2 each time, you just might make it down the hill before the week is out.
It is similar with creative pursuits. You start making a thing, getting into the groove, and what you make isn’t that good at all. But the concept is there. It has good bones. And though you notice the Gap between what you’re making and what you want to make, the best way to get to where your heroes are is to start making. A lot. And the more you make on a consistent basis, the faster you fail and the quicker get to sucking less.
100 DAYS OF FINDING YOUR PEOPLE
When I left my job in September, I did not know exactly what I was looking for next. But I knew who I looked to that were doing things I loved really well. And what do you do when you discover something you love? You get to know it. You sign up for their mailing list and read and research. Watch Youtube videos and drink instant coffee in graphic PJ pants with your socks pulled up. And then you attempt to emulate it. I admired the sharp-tongued wit of copywriter Ashley Ambirge, the vulnerable hand-lettered poetry of design-thinker, Debbie Millman, and the principles laid out by best-selling author, Austin Kleon, in Steal Like An Artist. That is when my project, #100DaysofCopy was born. And along the way, I discovered so many amazing artists and writers that blew my mind with their creative contributions to the world and to my project. And suddenly, we were connected through a shared appreciation for consistent expression, or just a really well-placed pun.
100 DAYS OF IDEA MACHINERY
You will notice something strange start to take shape when you start making everyday. It starts sporadically at first. You will start to feel the first drops and then inspiration comes out gushing like broken water pipe. You can’t get get the ideas down fast enough. And then the next day the mainline will be arid and you need to start scratching the surfaces of your swipe file to get groundwater. Later, we will get into ways to safeguard your trajectory when this (and other pesky things called Life) intervene, but I promise, the more you keep working, the process flow will regulate itself.
If this revvs your engine to start your own 100 Day journey, stay tuned for the next installment — What to Expect, where I’ll lay out provisions to pack as you prepare for the days ahead in your creative adventure.
[Note: this is 1 of a 3-part series for Polyama Project.
Part 1 — WHY You Need 100 Days Of
Part 2 — WHAT to Expect on Your 100 Days
Part 3 — HOW to Find Your #100DayProject
If you’re a multipassionate entrepreneur, sign up for the Polyama Project mailing list here.]