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Lessons learned completing a 365-day challenge

At the onset of the pandemic, like many others, I found myself with some spare time on my hands. I had wanted to explore my creative side for a while and this newfound free time was a good excuse to get started—not to mention a much-needed distraction. What came next was one of my more extreme ideas—trying my hand a 365-day challenge. The idea was simple, sit down and create something every day for the year, no rules, just create something. While I had messed around with a few different mediums prior, I decided to go with a digital collage for this project. Collages allow for such broad interpretation and leaves a lot of room to play and explore. I knew what I made on day one would likely be quite different from day 365, but I was more curious about everything in between. At the same time, I was cautious of my ability stick to a daily commitment for a year. Doing something daily for a month can be a challenge of its own, much less 12 of them. Over the year, as expected, I found myself in situations that would distract me from creating a piece that day—I felt uninspired, I was not interested, nothing looked good, etc. However, when these thoughts came up, I slowly found ways to counter them.

    • Set a time limit and call it quits after that: Work for an hour and when the timer goes off, that is it for the day. Call it complete, unless I found myself in a good rhythm and would keep going.

    • It is not about perfection: The mindset of perfection felt like a constraint and often prevented ideas or compositions that did not feel “perfect.” The goal of the overall project wasn’t about a collection of perfect pieces, it was simply about creating daily.

    • Do wrong: Avoid trends, work with colors or patterns that typically don’t go together, make a mistake and go with it. What does it look like when something is “wrong”? Some of my favorite ideas came from days when I ignored all thoughts of what I should be doing and what looked good and took the piece in the opposite direction.

    • Add a parameter: If I found myself stuck or uninspired by the blank page in front of me, I would introduce a parameter of sorts. Design with color, or maybe no color at all. Add a person. No straight edges. Little ideas to sprinkle in that may spark a new idea.

    • Do something vastly different from yesterday: Similar to doing it wrong, think of each day as a unique opportunity and not necessarily a continuation of what worked the previous day.

    • Just do it: While there could be an endless list of reasons not to, I would remind myself of the goal at hand and how many days I had accomplished so far. Taking a step back and viewing the day as a single piece and not a yearlong project makes it more manageable. Plus, after completing the piece, it feels good to see the whole project continue to grow.

These shifts in mindset not only existed within the vast collection of collages I was creating, but they soon bled over into work and life—a new lens to examine issues and problems. Approaching a project brainstorm with the mindset of “how can we do this different than before” or “what little things can we add to spice it up” came forward and resulted in creative, bold ideas. Even when you consider doing something “wrong,” it opens your mind to all sorts of new ideas and approaches. Now I’m not saying go do something wrong, but see what ideas unfold and how can you shape them into something that will work for you.

Creativity exists in many forms and across many disciplines. Being mindful of these ideas and inspirations while bridging them to other aspects of your life is when things get exciting. I was not expecting a daily art project to affect various parts of my day-to-day life, but it has opened my mind and introduced new perspectives and questions to bring to the table.

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