silence the bitchy whisperer [i.e. Fear] deep within you with your skinny jeans on 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 not FREE. I was desperate for a self-inflicted project to which I could commit. I was so sick of getting excited about a project and then just dropping it. Just once, I needed to be acquitted of THE QUIT.
Do you keep your side project at bay? Is there a calling that you keep letting go to VM? Or, actually, for me it is more like a tugging at my pant leg that I keep kicking away.
And then there are those people that are DOING that thing you want to do too. The ones that spark *ENVY*. The ones whose work you see that make you say ‘I wish that was me.’ Or, ‘I had that idea in 2,000fricken3!’ 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, whom I loved, and trusted. Elle alongside the Great Discontent ran 100-day campaigns to help creative projects GET 'SENT.'
I read the book which got my inspired thoughts churning but I put the project on the back burner.
A few months later, an art director, Catherine Casalino, came and spoke to my SVA typography class which would banish me from a creative rut. She was doing #100DaysinWonderland inspired by the Lewis Caroll book and the iconic NYC designer, Michael Bierut.
I was intrigued. A Google search revealed that Bierut was behind the FedEx logo and the Saks Fifth Avenue seal. He 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 read that bit. I had two days to plan my 100-Day Trip.
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 make a behavior a 'thing'. As creative people, our drive and resolve to make is met with an indefatigable force that create painstaking delays in delivering our craft to the world. So, think of those other 34 days in your trip 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 endeavor. Case in precedence--the gestation period of the newly elected presidents. Michael Watkins, in his HBR article, Why the First 100 Days Matters, explains why this 3 1/2 months is so clutch: “[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 your 9-hour workday.
But what if you committed just 20 minutes daily? That’s half of an already-shortened lunch break or two showers, sans shaving. Imagine the calories and water you’d be saving! Seriously, though, the length of time will vary, depending on your piece, 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. Did you suck at it too? You can barely sustain momentum long enough to sneeze and lose balance. You used to have abdominal fortitude before you strapped yourself into a board and headed down what feels like an ice luge. Maybe you are with a few people on the slope that suck worse. That’s comforting for a minute but then WHURRRRRSHHHH….the pro’s whiz past you in a flash of color and sound. And they’re having the time of their lives. You? Dumbfounded. At least that is how I saw it when I tried snowboarding for the first time on the icy slopes at Hunter Mountain in NY with over-aggressive sunshine. Except those pro’s I mentioned before were actually 7-year-olds that come every winter with their fit European mum, dad, sis and bro. 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, fully reclined. That is where most of the other slope virgins 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 finding 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 bliss. It’s adrenaline, and pride, and excitation, and fear all served up in this flaming high-flying cocktail and you glide down the slope until BUMP, you’re down again. If only you could sustain that momentum for a moment longer, multiply it by 2, you just might make it down the hill before the trip is through.
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 you improve. 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 JUST 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 2015, I did not know exactly what I was looking for next. But I knew who I looked to that were doing things I loved the best. And what do you do when you discover something--or someone--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, despite the suck. I admired the sharp-tongued wit of copywriter Ashley Ambirge, the vulnerable hand-lettered poetry of Debbie Millman, design thinker. And the principles laid out by best-selling author, Austin Kleon, in Steal Like An Artist gave me permission to tinker. That is when my project, #100DaysofCopyThat was born. And along the way, I discovered so many amazing artists and writers that blew my mind with their creative contributions I felt so blessed to find. And suddenly, we were connected through a shared appreciation of funny coffee mugs, ambition to expresso ourselves, or really awful puns (not a typo above:).
100 DAYS OF IDEA MACHINERY
You will notice something strange when you start making every day. Inspiration starts to trickle at first...but then FULL-ON SPRAY. You can’t get the ideas down fast enough. And then the next day the mainline will be dry and rusted and you need to start scratching the surfaces of your swipe file. The swipe file is where you'll go when you start to pout that there is an idea drought. Later, we will get into ways to safeguard your creative stash when this (and other pesky things called Life) come to pass, but I promise, the more you make, the flow will start to self-regulate.
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 trek.
Part 1 — WHY 100 Days Matters
Part 2 — WHAT to Expect on Your 100 Day Trek
Part 3 — HOW to Find Your #100Day Thing