Taking on a daily project is a powerful way to jump-start our creativity. It nudges us to focus on the process, instead of the final product. How often have you created something then stopped halfway because you hated it? How often have you not even started believing that your skills or ideas aren’t good enough? How often have you said you just don’t have the time?
A daily project nudges us to practice, to explore, to investigate, to play, to keep going, regardless of the results. Because the more we do something, the more water we have to extinguish our fears, self-doubts and hesitations. Simply, the more we actually do.
A daily project also teaches us a lot about ourselves and our art. “I’ve learned that I am not only a relational person, but I am also a performer who needs to connect with and give to an audience…Every day, I am creating my own language—I am tapping into my most essential self—and it turns out that there are people who understand it. I am letting people in. And in so doing, I am finding my people; we are finding each other,” said Marielle Hare in this interview.
Hare is one of the people participating in the “100-Day Project.” For years Michael Beirut, a designer and professor at the Yale School of Art, has asked his students to pick an action to perform every day for 100 days. This year, on April 6th, artist and author Elle Luna (I featured her book here) and the magazine The Great Discontent teamed up to host the project on Instagram.
What I love about this project is the focus on process, on making for the sake of making. As they write on their site:
What Is the 100-Day Project? It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.
Even though it’s already underway, you can begin at any time. Start today. Or tomorrow. Do anything for 100 days (or extend it to a year!). Make it something you can do in 10 minutes. Make it as simple as you like. Maybe it just requires a pen and an index card. Maybe it’s just you and the camera on your smartphone. Maybe it’s playing with a poem, or just one word.
These questions can help you pick your project:
1. What are you passionate about? Is there something you used to do that you gave up, something you’d like to explore, something that intrigues you?
2. Pick an object or objects. What do you already have in your possession that could be used to facilitate this project? it could be as obvious as paint and paintbrushes, a camera, fabric and a sewing machine, or a musical instrument. Or it could be less obvious, like your great dance moves, paint chips, a wooden chair, or strangers.
3. Consider your location. Will you be home, traveling, or a combination of both? Pick something that’s feasible for you to complete.
4. Choose your action. What’s your verb? Here are a few to get you thinking:
stand, speak, drive, study, drop, act, remove, repeat, examine, replace, introduce, perform, jump, pass, test, roll, kick, run, cook, thank, place, pick, save, throw, cover, shake, count, dance, break, walk, form, deliver, show, raise, reach, catch, sing, sort, develop, measure, discuss, draw, dress, write, meet, climb, take, look, climb, wish, shout, wash, decide
Here are other 100-day projects that are incredibly inspiring:
“The 100-Day Project has taught me that sometimes making something for no reason at all is the best reason ever. The act of sharing daily posts without much time to edit or overthink has completely refreshed my creative process. When stuck in a rut, I tend to work in circles on a project and never share it. Catapulting these little song diagrams out into the world after just 30 minutes of work has been a major challenge, but also a game-changer. Having them met with enthusiasm from my friends and family seems to have sent my brain a message that says, “See? It’s okay to simmer down, do something fun, and move on.”
Jessica Mentis is making all sorts of jellies. She shared the complex process: “First, the molds are designed on architectural computer software; then they are 3D-printed and vacuum formed; then I set them with experimental flavors like gilded pink grapefruit, salted caramel, and basil-infused lemon blancmange; and then I photograph and style each one…”
“After sitting on a bus every day for 30 to 40 minutes, boredom naturally sets in. People start forgetting there’s a swarm of other people sitting around them and they pass the time on their phones. They idly read Facebook and forget whatever they read about by the time they get to work or school. I became one of these people, listless and bored. So I figured, ‘Why not use this time to engage with everyone around me?’ People end up being most of what I photograph anyway, so why not use that time to do something interesting? I wanted to strike up a conversation with someone and give them my full attention for 30 minutes.”
A daily project reminds us of the power of showing up. Of the power of our imagination. Of the power of carving out moments to do what our minds and hands are meant to do: make.
What will you do for your 100-day project?