The 100 Day Project (#the100dayproject) starts January 31, 2021. (That is the official hashtag. It can be confusing because there are many similar hashtags that will take you to different sites and groups and communities.) I am always having to doublecheck to see if it is “100 days” or “100 day” and with or without the “the.” So, #the100dayproject.
I ended up talking about the 100 Day Project in Episode 437 (not yet live) even before I finished this post. That wasn’t exactly planned, but once I started talking, I had some random, off-the-cuff things to say. In talking about the project, I moved into the “encourage you to find creative bliss” space, once that show is live, it’s one to catch even if you aren’t doing The 100 Day Project. I even outlined a way to turn “making space in your life for a creative habit” into a 100-day project that could be super insightful and meaningful – the kind of conceptual project and reflection that we could all benefit from doing.
I’ve been thinking about the upcoming challenge. I’m really excited about the earlier start this year. I have had mixed success with my 100 Day Project picks for the last few years, but I haven’t done a full 100 of any of them, partly because the project’s timeframe always ran into summer drawing for the Index-Card-a-Day Challenge (ICAD). So, with a January start date in 2021, I am looking forward to adding another “count” to my daily creative practice and lineup.
I do love a good count, a good number, a good goal, and a simple but powerful way to give contour to creative practice and habit.
So what to do? Deciding on a project is always a quandary for me. I’m not deciding “to do” or “not to do” the 100 Day Project. Given the timing, it’s a good fit for me this year. But choosing a project that I think can carry me from start to finish.
I didn’t remember initially that I had posted about this before on the blog. But it turns out that in 2019, I posted musings on some possible projects. You can read them here. I had a bunch of ideas that year. The one I chose from that list ended up being one of my favorite projects ever. (I have posted similar musings about ICAD as I have tried to choose a series or theme-based approach each year.)
You can see some of my thinking about the 100 Day Project — the setup and structure — in that earlier post. I talk a lot about this in Episode 437, too. And, no, I’m not involved with this project. But we could start a creative project on any day and do it for 100 days. I love the following they have for The 100 Day Project.
At the core, it’s a general concept, and I have a lot of ideas as a creative person about how such a concept can be structured at the personal level. If you are joining the official challenge, you can find out a lot more info in their FAQ.) Definitely being a part of an inspired and inspiring, excited and enthusiastic, and diverse community is a great reason to jump in, be a part, and start January 31 with your own 100 day project.
Where I’m At…
I think some of you may benefit from seeing how I (or others) think about the many options. I don’t get caught up in the whole “how to count” debate. If I start this as “The 100 Day Project,” I’ll do it for 100 days (or until I stop if I stop early). I’m okay with that being what it is, and I interpret “100-day” in a variety of possible ways:
- 100 days working on a specific project, skill, theme, or idea
- 100 days using a certain medium, tool, or color/palette
- 100 days of working on something and it might be one single thing
- 100 days of working on something, and it might be that I make 20, or 50, or maybe 100
- 100 days working on a big project that meets personal goals and that devoting 100 days worth of effort and energy to will get it started, push it along, or even see it to completion (e.g., a book)
I do not assume that if you do the 100 Day Project it means you have to make 100 of whatever it is.
One of the very first projects I saw a few years ago was something that was approached much differently. It really helped me to conceptualize this as a landscape for personal growth, a project that centered around a goal or skill you want to develop and can spend dedicated time exploring over the 100 days – and celebrating your growth, how much you learn, what you make, and what you discover.
I’ve seen people do 100 days getting to know Procreate or digital art, 100 days writing poetry, 100 days drawing a certain kind of object, 100 days of public speaking, 100 days in a certain medium, 100 days carving stamps, and so on. To me, doing it or practicing it or learning more about it for 100 days, however many actual “items” that means you make (even if it is 1), is a better approach than insisting you create 100 individual things and having it take a whole year.
It can be whatever you want.
I Made a List
I am working this year on a new life tracking system using a digital tool, and I am also enjoying some key productivity streams at YouTube. I am spending a chunk of every day, in fact, working on this. It’s a perfect combination of skills and interests for me. (I’ll be talking about it at some point soon. I would really like to “share” what I’m doing, but I want to dig a bit deeper before I open that up.)
As part of this process and this commitment to a new tool and new overarching documentation, a week or so ago, I jotted down my goals for the year. I’m at a point where I need to plug them into my system in a more integrated way but also do some soul searching and honest assessment of the goals. Why do they matter? How will I feel if I don’t meet them? What might pose a problem? What can I do to help ensure I reach these goals? How will I keep track of them? What kinds of accountability can I create to help myself? Which goals matter most, if I can’t manage them all? Why? And so on.
As part of this set of goals, which includes some of the serial challenges I do each year to help structure my creative work, I included the 100 Day Project and started jotting down (digitally) some of the ideas I have for projects I might do. Keep in mind that because I:
- Already draw every day and
- Am working on a weekly illustrated journal (with #illustrateyourweek) that is a continuous project and container
I want and need to choose a project that:
- I can still manage as an “extra” in my day (small enough to fit in and still allow me time to do my other things)
- Is toothy enough to feel like it is sustainable over the long haul (e.g., I won’t get tired of it; too simple would end up being boring and not worth the doing “just” to be ticking off the box)
- Is sharable (because being able to share my work helps me feel seen and gives me gentle accountability)
- Has some personal meaning or relevance (whether in the subject or in the process itself, like something rooted in mindfulness)
Ideally, whatever I choose:
- Offers some growth potential (I don’t approach all challenges with this expectation, but the 100 Day Project really has this potential, and so I look at it with that in mind)
- Fits in with larger goals
Some of the projects I really want to do don’t meet the above requirements. But coming up with the list is the first step. Brainstorm all the ideas or jot them down as you think about them in the days before you make a decision. And then start narrowing in on which ones will or won’t work – and why. Sometimes, as you go one by one through your list, the answer will be really obvious to you. You’ll find or feel or see that spark. You’ll feel pulled one way or the other.
If that’s you, yay!
I don’t always share lists like this. They are very personal. Very vulnerable. And very private. Sadly, I am too skeptical and suspicious of the world at large to be comfortable sharing all the things I want to do but know I don’t have time or money to really manage right now. (I hate the reality that our creative spaces can leave us feeling so mistrusting, but it’s true. It often feels like an artist-eat-artist world out there, and I resist, daily, letting that mentality discolor my shiny enthusiasm and belief in the value of a creative life and personal art habits.)
Even though I hesitate to share portions of my list on paper (a la on a screen), I am hopeful that thinking through a few of these in this blog space might help me find the “just right” chair. In other words, thinking through things “sort of” out loud with a perceived reader (listener) has the potential to help me find the clarity that I won’t find when just looking at my list on my own. Presenting it out loud can really help shine light on the nooks and crannies.
So, here we go. Here are a few of the ideas I am considering:
- Food drawings: I’ve talked about doing these many times, and doing a recent pantry project drawing (of a bottle of hot sauce) was fun. If I was going to push through to use gouache (a someday goal), this might be perfect, but this year, I would be doing this in ink.
- Reservations: while I love the ideas of the food drawings, my black and white one was pretty simple and pretty boring. Will I really enjoy this for 100 days?
- Growth mindset: I would get a lot better at rendering bottle and package shapes and fitting in product labeling (words, text, images, etc.).
- Ink quotes: I already do this a bit in my illustrated journaling, so it would be easy to fit into my current system and process and would let me play with lots of different fountain pen inks.
- Reservations: it doesn’t feel quite toothy enough for me to commit to for 100. I might want to do a quote every day anyway, but I’m not sure it’s the right project for a focus unless it was tied specifically to ink swatching and documentation (which is a goal).
- Flip-side: If it was tied to ink swatching, I can see this one working.
- Growth mindset: I could really focus on layout and lettering.
- Kids toys: definitely one of my favorite things to draw. Even though most of the toys are gone, there are still lots of random things. I could even focus just on cars. I drew a little annoying hamster toy a few weeks ago, one we so totally need to get rid of because it still makes noise after all these years. When I drew it, it charmed me. I thought of all the stuffed things still sitting around that I want to draw before we dump them. This project is one that has tons of personal meaning. It is one I could even simplify and just do in a box each day in my illustrated journal (as opposed to full-fledged portraits of each animal or full-on drawings of each car or toy).
- Reservations: I might not be able to find 100 toys I care about. Although I think I could. These might be boring in black and white. Although I really like the idea of them in boxes (a la panels), which would give me frames to limit and change the view. The stuffed animals have so little definition that they may not be interesting enough for me to do in pen and ink. But there are the cars…. so many cars. And yet…. I’m not very good at drawing cars. (Also: I also know that from doing a “teddies” series several years ago, doing stuffed animal and teddy bear drawings was not fast or simple for me. I want something specific from these stuffed animal drawings, and I don’t know that it will or would work as a tagalong project.)
- Growth mindset: especially with the car and toy (although maybe not stuffed) focus, this one has growth potential and skill-building. If I drew a small car, either Matchbox, Hot Wheels, or a micro car every day for 100 days…. surely I would improve my skill with drawing cars.
- Devil’s advocate: do I need to improve this skill? (Well, maybe not, but I do love toy cars – a lot!)
- Benefit: this one fits in with the illustration work I’m already doing and would, in theory, be easy to fit into each day, although there is a real risk that I might spend as much time drawing a toy car as anything else I might draw in a day. (Reminder: drawing into a pre-set box would help with this and provided a ready container.)
- Honest assessment: all the things I’ve written here make me think this is where I might should focus, but I’m just not sure this one has enough “spark” right now.
- Things in a box: this involves deliberately drawing into daily panels. To some extent, I am already doing a lot of this in my illustrated journal. (If you know me, you know that my current #illustrateyourweek project is an outgrowth of a graphic novel journal/diary I was keeping in the past. It was different then, but this is an absolute favorite format for me.) A few years ago, a graphic novel diary project was my pick for the 100 Day Project because I had lost my habit of doing it, really wanted to get back into “that” as a daily practice and project, and needed to get better at being able to share my work — needed to build a thicker skin and confidence (or find a way to share pages like this). In this case (this year), this line-item is less about the personal story than just making the boxes primary – a primary container for 100 days into which I draw something.
- Reservations: I work with so many boxes in my illustrated journal pages, that this might not feel “discrete” enough to give it legs to stand on. (Without some really clear legs, these projects are hard to sustain.) I don’t want the project to just be fulfilled by my illustrated journal.
- Reality: this one, while important to me and my aesthetic, doesn’t feel right for this specific challenge because of #illustrateyourweek. Yes, I want to continue using and emphasizing boxes, but that doesn’t make it the right approach for this project.
- Sketchnotes: this continues to be something I consider each year because it is an area I really want to spend more time in. Practicing sketchnoting for 100 days would help me build a better visual vocabulary, help me learn to work more quickly to organize thoughts and notes on a page, and help me practice and build skill with layout. My reservations remain the same as in years past.
- Reservations: These take time. If I wanted to sketchnote highlights or summaries from a video, TedTalk, podcast, etc., I would need to do it at night, and the time I have available isn’t as conducive to doing something like this at night. Given the simple logistics of watching or listening to the source material at night, I don’t think I could sustain it for 100 days.
- Honest assessment: If I did this, I would either need to have a specific set of things to sketchnote so that I was working on a specific “group” over the days (and I don’t know what nice, specific, set or series might give me a perfect target). Or I would need to do one complete sketchnote each day. Even with just the time required for filling in lettering in other sketchnotes I have done, I don’t think this is sustainable for me for the 100 days alongside other projects.
- Sketchnotes of CMP shows: the same caveats apply to this one as the one above. The difference with this one is that it specifically feeds into a larger personal goal related to the CMP.
- Reservations: like other sketchnotes, these would take a lot of time, but in this case, they would also require listening to old shows. It is a project I definitely want to do and have been talking about for years. But I don’t think I can fit it into my current daily margins or alongside my other daily creative work. (As the shows continue to disappear from the site, I am also realizing this whole idea will need some rethinking.)
- Honest assessment: I am too invested in what these notes look like and become to do them “too quickly” just to check off a box each day. If I broke it down and just targeted a few, it might be a really good way to take first steps and launch this project.
- Simple reality: It’s a big project. It’s a project I care a lot about. I’m not sure it would work as an “extra” (which is why it continues to be back-burnered).
- Three-panel stories: this would absolutely fit in with my goals related to improving graphic novel skill and chronicling events in this way. This is an adaptation of an earlier goal and one that would fit in with my current illustrated journal.
- Reservations: I continued to be stymied by “how” to get certain views into a box because I can’t seem to visualize the moments that I want to draw/record. While this project could really help with that, I am afraid that being stymied and also feeling like there is no story to tell would put the project at risk before it even really gets started.
- Vulnerable truth: Given my own limited skill in an area that means a great deal to me, this would be harder for me to share. I would potentially grow a lot, but I think the contours of this would be difficult for me in terms of being comfortable being seen.
- Growth mindset: doing a project like this along with reading Making Comics by Scott McCloud would be a really good approach. (I have another McCloud book, but I bought myself this book as a treat in December and have been fitting in a few pages here and there with the intent to do a more focused study/practice.) If I pursued this for 100 days, especially in conjunction with the book, it might broaden out to be a more general graphic novel practice project and not 3-panel stories. This is already tied to my goals, but I’m not just sure this is shareable enough to help keep me motivated when things are hard. (You could do something similar with Making Comics by Lynda Barry or Syllabus. Either can be excellent for a sustained project. I think “living with” a book for a 100-day project is a really good approach, actually….. lots of other books could apply here!)
- Zine: this one recurs for me. A zine has been a someday list-item for years. As part of my 50 Before 50 list, I did print out zine elements and worked on getting myself to simplify what I wanted to do in concept and approach so that I could just do it.
- Reservations: this isn’t a project that would be shareable in any compelling way day by day over a 100-day haul. Because my instinctive (and perfectionist) approach is to do this digitally, and instead, I keep trying to make myself just do the simple kind of folded-paper-never-gonna-be-totally-straight zine everyone else cranks out, it would involve gluing things in place and creating a paper copy. I love those, but it does take reconciling on my part. Because I work at a computer all day, I keep pushing to not make this a start-to-finish digital layout project – that would be more like a book. I want to do a “rough” zine with a bit of old-school flare as a way of simplifying the process.
- Honest assessment: it still matters a lot to me, but I don’t think the world really needs or cares about yet another zine. (After all, people see my work every day on Instagram. And, I did try two unsuccessful postcard series.) Ultimately, it feels like a good weekend project, but maybe not toothy enough for 100 days. (Why it lingers as something undone and unfulfilled is mindboggling.)
- Videos: pushing in this area is a driving interest for me right now. I started with a few simple timelapses. I only have 50 followers, but I can’t seem to stop. As rudimentary as they are, I love making these timelapses so much. I’m hooked on this idea, on how I can combine podcasting with video, and moving beyond “just” timelapse, making a real channel (right, with me there as part of it). (You’re shocked? I’m perpetually a little shocked, too, and terrified even as I am more and more drawn to the idea.) Making short videos (under one minute) or even putting myself in front of a camera each day would be a way to tackle this and build both skill and comfort, but working on bigger pieces, including timelapse, would be a good way to focus, too.
- Reservations: my space is impossible. My margins of time don’t sync, in any way, with daylight. I don’t have any of the necessary equipment and no budget – and I do believe in starting with what you have in order to test an idea (proof of concept). I am working with what I have, but I’m not sure I can really deep dive yet in a way that will feel satisfying. Even so, I know I have to keep pushing with what I have and see if there is anything here for me.
- Growth mindset: If I did a deep dive like this and devoted a certain amount of time each day to working on videos, I would learn a lot.
- Verdict: even though this project and goal matters a lot to me, I don’t think it’s the right thing for me for the 100 Day project (this year). (In a future year, I might totally have a different opinion, especially if I suddenly sprout a rainbow horn.)
- Reality: everyone does videos, Instagram live, stories, etc. now. I’m not convinced I can succeed here without tools, losing 50 pounds, and suddenly being 25 again.
- Ink swatching / circles: it sounds silly even to write this, but it really is a legitimate and serious consideration. A few days ago, I felt sure this was what I was meant to do for the 100 days – fill circles. I have done quite a bit of circle filling over the last year or two, and this process is meaningful and mindful. It relaxes me and lets me play with a variety of inks. The way it calms, slows, and soothes has an important place in helping me find and maintain balance in and around other things. When I stenciled in a few circles and started filling them in again…. this idea rose to the forefront as a possible 100-day project.
- Reservation: It might not be toothy enough.
- Connection to goals: I would like to make connections in the fountain pen and ink space and community, and this project might help because I would be creating simple but consistent swatch samples.
- Reservation 2: It really might not be toothy enough. It feels too simple, and that can be a problem for me in elevating something to a focused 100-day thing.
- Benefit: It would fit in, easily, with the work I am already doing in my illustrated journal. But I also envision larger and standalone pages that let this pattern and line-driven work stand alone and emphasize mindfulness and simplicity. Plus, I could use lots of inks and just enjoy the process. It’s low-risk, and it doesn’t detract from other drawing I might do.
- Dip pen: I recorded a show last year about dip pens. I was all excited about dip pens. I thought dip pens might be what I’d been missing forever. Then I backtracked because I realized that all the ink I have and love might not work with a dip pen. There are special inks for dip pens, and my fountain pen ink might, really, be too thin. So, I started just dipping my fountain pens and playing that way. But, after that, I started seeing dip pens everywhere. All kinds of people appeared out of the woodwork using a dip pen. I just kept focusing on my inks (see #11), but then one day when I was going through some old Instagram accounts, trying to trim down my feed so that I see more of what I want to see, I found an account that I don’t even remember…. but that is dip pen driven. I was blown away, excited anew, and I realized that the maru (or mapping nib) might be what I want to try. In thinking about this for 100 days, I know that it might not have enough concrete edges. It would be 100 days exploring a medium.
- Reservations: I have to buy stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time looking and know what I would get in terms of a holder and a sampler pack to explore a few common nibs, including Zebra-G, with the maru nib being what I expect to like because it can create a very thin line. So this would be okay. I feel the glimmers of something here strongly enough to justify this. But…. I still don’t know if my ink will work. That’s a potential red flag for me, although…. my interest in the “fine lines” is specifically related to drawing. So if I had to do my dip pen work just with black, that would be okay. Actually, doing the dip pen exploration in black would make the most sense. The potential issue with my fountain pen inks might just be a red herring. It may be that “drawing” with dip pen is what this 100 days would really explore.
- Benefit: It would fit in with my daily illustrated journaling and drawing.
- Growth mindset: This would let me really explore a tool I haven’t used before. (I used a glass dip pen years and years ago, but this is totally different.) It might be that this nib gives me fine line nirvana.
- Risk: I might really hate it, in which case the project would fail. I might find that it’s really not doable in my space without risking making a huge mess. I hate even that you are supposed to use ink from a separate container to avoid contamination. There’s a potential level of “overcomplication” to something that should be easy that might not work for me.
- Write a book: Right.
Well, now I’m exhausted. There are other things I considered, but these are some of the main ones I’ve been thinking about. Looking back over this, I see a few that jump out as maybe the most logical or sustainable or best choices. But there has to be a spark. Writing all this down and thinking through things a bit more on paper was helpful for me. I think something will come out of this.
It took far longer to pull this together than I expected. I feel like I fell down a hole of 100 Day thinking that cast a spell over much of my day. Afterwards, I was at Instagram and saw some #the100dayposts and looked a bit at what some people were sharing from previous challenges. After all the work I did here, I was reminded that the kind of project I tackle often feels a bit outside of the challenge. But, I still appreciate the scaffolding even thinking, conceptually, about “100” offers.
One thing this process really cemented for me is the need to be able to be public with the work for 100 days and feel “good” about it. I knew that was a factor, but it really jumped out today in thinking about each of these and how they might go over a 100 days.
Don’t Let Fear of Not Finishing Make You Not Start
One other thing I want to stress is that you shouldn’t let fear that you might not finish dissuade you from choosing and starting a project. Pick something you think you will love. Start it. See where it goes. And if it turns out you fall off somewhere along the way, that’s okay, too. You’ll pick up your creative life with something else and move on.
I hope that you, too, give a 100 Day Project some thought.
For more, see these posts and show notes pages:
- 100 Day Project 2019 (the year I did contour people in motion)
- Episode 356: Slice of Life (from the contour project)
- Episode 331: Crossroads (about The Crossroads of Should and Must)