Lessons from My 100-Day Project 2023 | 2 of 5
Getting Ready for Wonder Series | What I Learned Painting 100 Tiny Landscapes
Hi, my name is Michele and I’m a serial starter of new things. I tried to do the 100-Day Project at least 5 times before actually completing it last year.
(If you are not familiar, the 100-Day Project has happened every year for over a decade in the online creative community. Read about it’s beginnings here.)
I made it a week and a few days each time. Maybe.
With great gusto, I’d haul out my paints and open the fresh pages of a carefully designated sketchbook. I’d jump in. No plan. Just, you know, “art” stuff on the fly.
Inevitably, life happened. I’d get behind, become overwhelmed, feel like an epic failure, resent feeling like a failure, conveniently lose said carefully designated sketchbook, and pretend it never happened. But, deep down, my confidence in myself would sink just a little lower each time.
But last year was different. I didn’t know it would work. I wasn’t sure I’d finish.
In the middle, I wanted to say good enough. But I knew I needed to finish for me.
To prove to myself that the girl who moved sight unseen to an active conflict zone in central Africa with a case of water, a duffle bag, and a camp stove knowing no one could still do brave things, even when they were hard.
One of the biggest lessons from my 100-Day Project 2023 was realizing that 90% of finishing well was intentionally setting myself up for success before I ever started.
Last year I painted 100 tiny landscapes for my #100dayproject. When I started, I barely knew how to make an Instagram reel, was overwhelmed by social media, and honestly felt… alone.
100 tiny paintings later, I took my art full time, had a connected community I cherished, and figured out more of how to share the things in my heart with all of you. It was life-changing.
Best of all, I found my voice in ways I never thought possible. By creating, I found out more about who I was.
Things I Learned Last Year, and Am Learning Still
In no particular order, here are more of the things I learned (and am still learning) that may be helpful to keep in mind as you are setting yourself up to not only finish but enjoy the journey along the way.
Committing to show up for my creative practice is always a win. Even when it’s scary as heck, frustrating as all get out, and I feel stuck in a quagmire. Even then, it has a way of accelerating growth.
I want to work as hard and show up as well for myself as I would for someone else.
When I feel overwhelmed, taking a deep breath and asking what I can simplify usually helps. Can I give myself a 10-minute limit? Can I paint with 2 colors? It doesn’t all have to look the same. The tide ebbs and flows and so can we.
Life happens. But it doesn’t have to shut down my ability to show up for myself. It might change what it looks like, but there’s grace for that.
This isn’t a race. This isn’t the Olympics. I’m not in a competition. I’m following through to build trust in myself.
Do little things to prepare. Notice the things that make getting started hard. Try and prepare those in advance. Put the tools in a caddy. Precut all the paper to size. Remove as many barriers as possible that get in the way of beginning.
In the middle of creating, notice the delight. Pause. Drink it in. Notice the light that dances on the table. Relish in the way the pigment weaves in the water. It is magic.
Pick a pace that works for you. If 100 paintings, at 1 per day shuts you down, do 1 per week. Or 3 per week. Or 3 on Tuesday when you have more time. Make the project work for you. Not the other way around.
If you know painting with watercolor for 100 days will bore you beyond all chance of following through, paint with watercolor for 10 days and then try something else for another 10 days. I have found that 10 days is a valuable baseline because it lets you build a little track record with the same kind of creation. The longer you stick to similar kinds of creating, the larger a cohesive body of work you will likely end up with. The better you can see your growth and progress. But YOU do YOU. We will cheer you on.
We celebrate all growth and the small steps that still lead to big dreams.
You can’t get it wrong. ANY act of creation is worth celebrating.
Working small is usually less overwhelming and more doable. That’s one reason why I chose tiny landscapes last year. Write one line. Mix one color. Take one photo. Small, regular acts of creation build incredibly rich histories of creative practice.
Batch your creativity. Label each piece or page or line #1 of 100 and so on. It makes it easier to see and thus celebrate progress. When I felt stuck and I so often did, I’d pick up my other days and flip through them—seeing them build built huge confidence in myself.
The messy middle is part of the journey. Bumps that stretch us are part of the process. Feeling frustrated doesn’t mean you have failed. Feeling stuck doesn’t mean you are stranded. It could mean you are tired, hungry, or have other life things happening, or just need a break for your brain to work in the background while you take a walk, watch a sunset, or sip a cup of tea. (I’ll explain more of the science behind that soon. Yes. I’m a neuroscience nerd.)
Set an end goal beyond the act of creation. When you finish, what do you want to do with what you create? Have it scanned in and turned into a notebook. Make prints. Journal about your lessons and share what you have learned. Show the results to a friend. Pick your favorite piece and have it framed. We all need tangible reminders of the beauty that happens when we show up for ourselves—and one another.
If you like, sharing your work on Instagram using the tags #100DaysofWonder2024 (so we can find one another) and #100DayProject (to interact with all the other 100-Day projects people are doing globally) can be an amazing way to find new friends and receive encouragement.
It’s hecka vulnerable to share your work, but I’m learning from my friends over atthat putting your work out into the world (however that looks like for you, there’s never any pressure here) is an act of generosity. Creating is brave, generous work.
What Makes #100DaysofWonder2024 Different
Most 100-Day Projects, in fact, all that I have ever heard of, are individual. It is usually each person choosing their own theme, picking what they want to do, and doing it. Sharing it online individually. There’s some interaction with the global 100-Day Project community, but it’s mostly a solitary pursuit.
That was one of THE hardest things for me last year. Staying motivated. Staying focused. Especially when things were quiet and no one commented and it felt like I was sharing my creation to the void. And I’m a card-carrying introvert. It takes a lot to make me feel isolated.
While I love painting tiny landscapes, after 100ish honestly- I didn’t want to do the same thing again. That’s why I chose to change it up to #100daysofwonder2024 and made myself 100 one-word wonder prompts. To keep myself engaged.
(Y’all who have been reaching out and saying you struggle with finishing. I get it. Big time. You are in the right place.)
Then I had that wild idea to share this on Instagram and here we all are. I could not be more excited. Thank you for your trust. I don’t take that lightly.
To my knowledge, this is 1. the only community 100-Day Project with thousands of us creating together around the same theme and 2. using specific daily prompts to help motivate and keep us on track.
There are some really fun things in the works I’ll share more once we get them set up and make sure they test drive well. I’m an underpromise, over-deliver kinda gal to my core. 😉
More about how our prompts work and all the incredible things you can do with them, is coming up next.
If you are so inclined, I’d love to know what stood out to you in this post. What are you most excited about? What makes you nervous? Let us know in the comments. And let’s encourage one another!
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