Carving Out Time for Creativity

The 100 day project

A little over 100 days ago I started a project that forced me to change the way I carve out time for creativity in my days. Last summer I read At the Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna, and I loved it! Then, I put it down and on most days I didn't make time for creativity. Even though printmaking (and other creative pursuits) are just as good for my soul as exercise and reading and the other things that I make time for, it FELT harder to fit in. 

When I saw Elle announce this year's 100 day project, I wanted to do it. I thought about doing it, and dreamed about doing it - I even made a spreadsheet full of ideas for prints I might make over the course of 100 days, and then I chickened out. I thought there was no way I could make it happen. Let's be clear - I've never been able to go for a walk for 100 days in a row, or give up sugar for 100 days... I've probably never even eaten a chocolate chip cookie 100 days in a row, or other fun things I could name. 100 days is a LONG TIME! Then, the day before the project started, with a little bit of curiosity and just enough crazy, I jumped in. I decided. 

And I think that was the key for me - I decided. So, how did it go? Did I complete the 100 days? In a row? Did I have any breakthroughs or breakdowns? And what does this project mean for me going forward? Well I'm so glad you asked. 

I created a Linocut Alphabet during my project - 26 Days of prints!

I created a Linocut Alphabet during my project - 26 Days of prints!

YES. I finished all 100 days. I drew, carved and printed something on 100 days and it was hard and beautiful and messy and the best. Were they all in a row? Nope, I finished the project about a week late, but that was OK. For me, this project was not about perfection; it was about learning how to find space for creativity in my days.

Tiny bit of back-story: I have a full-time job, a hard-working husband, two busy teenagers, bills to pay, errands to run, a house to clean, etc. I'm not sitting around each day wondering how to fill my time. Instead, I'm constantly trying to figure out how to slow down! Taking on a 100 day project doesn't sound slow, but it was intentional. Slowing down at the beginning or end of each day forces me to sit down, relax and do something fun.

Sunlight Through the Leaves linocut print - Day 89

Sunlight Through the Leaves linocut print - Day 89

How to develop a creative practice

I believe that we all have creativity inside of us, and that it's good for the soul to make time for it. You can do it too! To that end, here are a few things I learned about carving out time for creativity:

  • DECIDE AND PLAN // We all make time for the things that we've decided to do each day. If I decide to get a haircut and schedule it, I don't choose to stay home and scroll on Pinterest instead. Why do we do that with our creative time? Once I decided to make time for creativity each day, I also had to plan. My schedule isn't tidy enough that I can be creative at the same time each day. Instead, I look ahead at my week and decide when to work on my art each day. That time is non-negotiable. Spoiler alert - this works!
  • CREATE SPACE // I don't have a dedicated art studio in my house - I often work at the kitchen table, or on the kitchen counter. My family is (mostly) very understanding of my creative space, but I do try to keep it as tidy as possible. The truth is that it got a little nuts on the kitchen table for a while, so I decided to get a bit more organized. A couple of small boxes for supplies made it easier to tuck things away when I'm not working on prints.
  • REST // My most creative thoughts often come when I am out for a walk, or daydreaming while taking care of a mundane task. If I fill all of my time with noise my mind is less likely to solve problems, think outside the box, or develop a new approach to my artwork. So I often close my computer, walk without listening to a podcast, or just sit and pay attention to my surroundings. 
  • KEEP A NOTEBOOK OF IDEAS // When I'm really doing all of the things on this list, I can't keep up with the ideas! In order to take advantage of spare moments, and the days when I have more ideas than time, I keep a notebook where I jot down ideas, or make quick sketches. Then, on the days when I just can't think of anything to do, I pull out that notebook to spark my imagination.
  • MAKE YOUR OWN RULES // Even though I started out with the !00 day project, I soon figured out that I had to make the project work for me, instead of the other way around. My goal for the project was to start a daily practice, no matter what that looked like. Near the end of the project, when I wasn't able to post a print on Instagram for a few days, I was still daydreaming, note-taking and sketching down ideas and thoughts. No one else saw those creative days, but they worked for me.  
  • CREATIVITY LEADS TO CREATIVITY //  The more creative you are, the more creative you will be. I had a couple of breakthroughs during my project, brand new ways of working that I will be experimenting with now that the project is over. When I'm in the midst of sketching, carving and printing, I take the time to try the ideas that come - playing with color and composition, or re-working a sketch that isn't quite right.
  • HAVE FUN // Creativity should be fun! If a creative practice ever starts to feel like work, you're doing it wrong. Shake things up - if you're a painter, cook a new recipe. If you're a florist, try sketching. If you're a printmaker, try hand lettering (I did this, and I was terrible!). Fair warning: if you start having fun being creative, you miiiight get grumpy on the days you don't fit in your creative practice (sorry family!). 
  • BE CURIOUS // Try new techniques, read some history, and yes, okay - you can look at Pinterest and Instagram. I spend a lot of time reading books by other printmakers, studying the botanicals that inspire my work, researching the history of botanical art, etc. etc. My library loves me. 
  • SHARE YOUR WORK // It's hard to share your work - there are always going to be people who don't respond to what you do. But do you know what's fun? Making connections with people who DO love what you're doing, who cheer you on when you are in the midst of a project, who compare your work to Picasso (true story). Solitude is great for creativity, but sharing your work makes it so much more fun to keep creating. 
  • KEEP IT SIMPLE // I'm okay with imperfection. If I have five minutes to create today, I can carve a tiny botanical and be done. If I have two hours, I can create something larger and more complex. Both types of work are useful to my practice. Both stretch my creative muscles in different ways. Both are worth sharing. My goal isn't to make my work simple, but to keep my expectations simple: create something today (I can do that). 

So will I do the 100 day project again? Probably not. It was a great project to kick start my daily practice, but near the end it felt hard to finish something every day. I'm looking forward to creating larger, more complex work again. If I ever fall back into bad habits (hello scrolling Pinterest instead of creating), I might use a daily project to get myself back into the creative habit. I'm VERY excited about some of the breakthroughs I had in my work during the project - you can follow along on Instagram to see what I'm working on next!

I'd love to hear about your own creative practice - please share so I can cheer you on! We can do this :)