WITH THIS RING...
“I CANNOT DECIDE.”
I really want to do the 100 Day Project this year. It’s quite a commitment. Experience has taught me that a firm foundation is crucial: Subject? Medium? Scale? I have a few ideas but haven’t set the first stone.
If I don’t get it right, I might end up quitting.
I have a vivid memory of sitting in the Crofter’s Arms, a wagon-wheel-chandelier family restaurant in Masterton, around 1983. There is wood everywhere. We are bathed in low yellow light. I am looking at a huge menu with my six-, maybe seven-year-old eyes and have no idea what to choose.
Props to my parents (for so many things): I have not been confined to the Kids Menu so there are many delicious things to choose from; no tiny fisherman’s basket or hot dog for me. I just can’t decide. Mushroom sauce or Peppercorn? I know they’ll both be interesting. I’m told I won’t like Peppercorn. The pressure grows as it comes my turn to order. THE ANXIETY. This happened every time.
I still experience faint menu jitters but the steaks are less high (sorry). Now, I just go by feel and tell myself it’ll be great and I can always come back and try something else. Perhaps that was something I didn’t understand as a child: quite apart from the feeling of internal pressure to “get it right”, I just didn’t understand time. It didn’t occur to me that we went out for dinner often enough; I couldn’t see that I would have another chance.
Fortunately for me, life is still Mushroom or Peppercorn, ie equally delicious, just different. Which brings me to the subject of this piece:
“Which 100 Day Project should I choose?”
Last night, I wrote down these options. In a way, having made a list like this every year for the last six doesn’t make this Decision bit any easier. They’re all palatable but they may not be created equal. Some projects are actually better than others in my experience. The subject of a 100 day can be anything. What counts the most is how much it matters.
HOW TO CHOOSE A 100 DAY PROJECT
This is how I start the first part of the process, Deciding:
- I set the intention to think about what I’ll do. Ideas eventually come.
- I keep a Note in the app on my phone for ideas that occur to me on the run.
- I sit down with a pen and paper. I brainstorm all possibilities.
- I look at the options and think (feel) carefully for the “Yes” project, the one that excites me or feels significant in some way.
- “fun” can be important too but, for me anyway, the purpose of the project is always deeper than play or entertainment.
Looking back on all the projects I’ve begun, I see something very important: when I’m deeply connected to my project because I really love the subject and/or I have unfinished business with the process, commitment has barely been a problem. I may have wrestled with low confidence or fatigue along the way but those things turned into opportunities. Projects that were fundamentally less important to me were easily abandoned because of “lack of time” or “other priorities”. When you choose a good project, it carries you.
The next part of the process is Writing a Statement. Once I have picked something, I imagine all the nitty gritty aspects of the project: materials, where I might do it, how long it will take, what each day’s completed thing could look like. I then write a statement, clear and simple, and this becomes a contract with myself. Past statements have been:
- I will take a photo of something heart-shaped every day.
- I will make a black and white portrait of someone every day.
- I will go to my studio and paint every day.
- I will make a new linocut print every day.
- I will explore the artistic possibilities of textiles every day.
- I will make a watercolour and digital illustration, with the help of Instagram followers, every day.
You can see that some of these are very broad and some are specific. The first three carried me all the way to the end with flying colours. I was connecting to love in the first one. I love portrait photography and that second project took me to unexpected places like dance shows and Battle of the Bands. The painting project was a healing process, too; the repair of severed ties to my seventeen self. All of the projects took time, and at that point I had plenty.
I left the latter three somewhere in the Thirties, for various reasons: the linocut project was hobbled by a theatre tour at the beginning. I took my materials on the road but never made anything; I was exhausted and print-making is messy. Also, I struggled with the time-consuming, less-than-spontaneous nature of the process, and not in a “fun” way. It was always a chore.
The textiles project was simply too broad. My 2020 watercolour project was a great occupation - almost full-time in fact - but once we opened up from full lockdown I found it hard to keep at it, especially when I had teeshirt production to get up and running again, and a website to create. The process took hours every day.
I’m not alone in bailing early - even Michael Beirut, the originator of the project, says many of his grad students at Yale School of Art don’t complete theirs either. It's a big undertaking even if the subject is simple, so I don’t feel bad about these early retirements. But I have experienced the feeling of crossing the white line: it is sweet victory (and relief). I want to feel that again.
I’m clutching my menu now and think I’ve chosen something good. But have I though? What does “getting it wrong” actually mean? Getting bored. Skipping days. Hating it. Quitting altogether. All of these things have happened before. There’s a little tug of war between What if and So what going on. Wisdom is winning out, a scrap of white fabric holding ground in the middle: trust yourself.
So there it is. If you can’t read my handwriting, my 100 day project is about:
- creating a piece of digital work each day that I share with others
- learning how to use some essential programmes that will amplify my creative potential.
I will learn to use Fresco, Photoshop, Illustrator. I’ll need at least thirty minutes a day. Some days will involve study, some days will be about practice. Some days might have to be "what I've made in the past". Some days a token effort. I have Creative Live to help me and each app has its own tutorials.
As I practise, I will get to the exciting bit: making with my own work. The creative equivalent of taking the trainer wheels off, pushing myself away, and beginning to stand on the pedals.
The 100 day project is not just for artists.
If you say "I'm not creative or arty" but you would like to be, the 100 day project is for you. You can choose absolutely anything, as long as you document it. Your project doesn’t have to be deep, but it does matter how much you like the idea in the first place. You might like to read something, write something, bake something, build something. Just intend to do something consistently, record your progress, and you’ll have a "collection" in a few weeks.
You don’t have to share your progress but doing so is powerful. Want to discover just how much you care about what other people think? Post your work on Instagram. Want to really learn how to have your own back and “live a little”? Post your work on Instagram.
If you consider yourself artistic, get in. If you’re a creative professional and you’re feeling stuck or stale, get amongst. If it’s been a long time since you drew/painted/sculpted, get on with it. When I did my first project in 2011, I was a full-time actor to be sure, but I hadn’t drawn or painted anything consistently since high school. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
The 100 Day Project. Changed. My. Life.
This piece is supposed to invite you to do one of these things and I’m aware it may sound hard. The reality is that a project like this is hard, but only in the way that any worthy, lengthy undertaking is hard. Just like I have, you will battle boredom, procrastination, self-criticism, and frustration occasionally. It’s inevitable. Everyone who does the project encounters these things at some point.
I consider 100 day projects to be enormously beneficial, and not just for kickstarting creativity or building a body of work. They put you deep in your personal shit, eventually. They show you what a whiny, flaky, baby-shaped pooh you can be when things aren’t going your way. That’s awesome. Transformative. Because who’s there to pull you out and roll you in glitter? YOU. They make you better with commitment and consistency. If you go all the way, they build patience, courage. They bring true satisfaction and success. In other words:
Your project is like a relationship.
That’s why choosing something close to your heart is so vital. Once you’ve decided what to commit to, consider your creative statement to be a vow. Maybe irreconcilable differences will part you somewhere along the way, amicably. You can get back together. If you love your project deep enough and if you let its mystery and everything you don’t know yet carry you through each day, the project will work on you as well as the other way around.
The final step in the 100 day preparation process is to declare your intention publicly. It’s easy:
- come up with a hashtag for your project which doesn’t already exist (I love that bit)
- create a post telling your friends and family what you’re going to do
- share it.
Then you begin. Come with me this Sunday 31st January. All the info is at https://the100dayproject.org/. Tag your work with your #hashtagtitle and #the100dayproject. Thousands of people are doing it, too. Your loved ones will be watching and waiting for your updates. Their appreciation and encouragement will carry you, too.
I, Amanda, take thee, #ADOBEDAZE, to be my 100 Day Project. From this Sunday the 31st of January forward, until May the 10th.
Might even be til death do us part. One day at a time.
P.S. Sacha Stejko took the lovely picture of yours truly in my first ever studio.
P.P.S. If you'd like to check out what I've done in past projects, follow these tags to their collections on Instagram: