Wednesday, February 17, 2016
The Value of a Five-Day Challenge
My inspiration for writing today's post comes from a great magazine out of Australia that I discovered via my writer's group: Womankind. It's a lovely mix of artwork, personal essay, and interesting articles on all sorts of things, from the meaning of happiness to living in Tuscany (which I'm sure would make me pretty happy.) I bought my first copy several weeks ago, and one of the articles that struck me the most was a collection of progress-reports from readers who had taken a "Five-Day Creativity Challenge." When I first saw the heading of "Five Days," my initial reaction was one of skepticism. Like, "Anybody can do five days of something. Try NaNoWriMo or the A-Z Blogging Challenge if you really want to test yourself and suffer!"
But after I'd read the various entries on what readers had done with the challenge, I became intrigued: five days seemed like an excellent amount of time, just right for tying up loose ends starting something new, or returning to a neglected project. It seemed exactly what I needed to motivate myself into finishing half a dozen little personal projects I had set myself over the years and then subsequently abandoned in favor of bigger, more important efforts.
The first thing I did to start off in the right direction was to purchase the storage basket pictured above. I liked the way the inside fabric was printed with old letters and stationery, and I liked the way it was already labelled "storage."
My next step was to gather up the six projects that have been driving me nuts and making me feel guilty each time I start something new. I put some of them in plastic bags for safe-keeping, and then put everything into my basket.
Then I chose one project to finish:
The story behind this sketchbook is that I initially ruined it before I'd even sketched on a single page. I had read in an art journaling magazine that a good idea was to a) put watercolor washes down on every page before starting anything, and then, b) spray the pages with fixative. The watercolor washes were a great idea. But the fixative? That was a very bad idea. Oh, what a bad idea. The plastic-coated pages were completely resistant to most media. The only thing that sort of worked was watercolor pencil, but when it came to adding any detail, forget it, as I found out when I tried to draw a little cardinal and the beak just kept growing bigger and bigger. To salvage whatever I could, I started collaging and experimenting, and thus a little book of sorts began. I called it my Silly Little Book of Silly Little Birds:
I actually found myself enjoying the challenge of how to make those impossible pages work one way or the other, but after completing about 32 out of 56 pages, I just stopped. I'm not sure why. Maybe I became bored with birds, or I finally grew to hate those slippery-slidey pages to the point of admitting defeat and quitting. That is, until the five-day challenge!
Last week I gave myself five days to work solely on silly birds, several pages a day, with the goal of completing the book once and for all. Here's a small sample:
I finished on Friday, and now I only have five projects left in my basket. I might not be tackling another one for a few weeks yet, but in the meantime, the guilt over my little forgotten birds is gone and my "creative burden" is definitely a whole lot lighter. Feels great!
Best of all, I learned a lot from working on this project: I learned I could persevere through difficult conditions; I learned about picture-book layout, something that has always interested me; and I learned I really love birds! So much so, that I'll be adding them to many more sketchbooks and paintings in the future. A whole new take on Anne Lamott's classic Bird by Bird, for sure.
Tip of the Day: Five days might not seem a lot, but it's amazing how far they can go toward helping you start, finish, or continue a creative project. For example, how about a Five-Day Query Letter Writing Challenge? A Five-Day Outlining Challenge? Or a Five-Day Beading Challenge? Short and sweet and infinitely practical. Let me know how it goes for you.