I wanted to give this post the fancy title "What I have learnt through the first month of a three-month challenge", but I realised it wasn't fancy at all, and also that I don't really like these kind of titles. So here it goes, my first supposed-to-be-normal blog post here, waiting for too long to be written, which happens to be the third one, when it's also marking the one-third of "96 sketches".
I've been working a lot lately, on various things. First of all I'm trying to figure out how I could be a better mom. Challenging in itself already. Then I'm working a full time job as a production designer. When these two are over, I'm trying to keep our apartment from falling apart, though this part is sometimes quite neglected to enable me to do something else I call my daily sanity keeper. Around 9 PM, or even later I sit down in front of my iPad, and try to create something. A little bit more than one month ago I decided to challenge myself once again, to see if it works this time. I've started "96 sketches" with an aim of creating something small every day. Sketching, drawing, lino-cutting, painting, whatever. I thought an hour can be easily carved out every evening. And it could be. But it turned out that after all these years of not creating constantly I still seriously love creating, and one hour is anything but enough. After an hour I usually feel warmed up enough to draw/create at least two more. Sleep deprivation, here I come again, we've just said goodbye.
Since I received my iPad not even two months ago, I'm quite obsessed with it and an app called Procreate. In the beginning I felt it was controversial, because I thought digital drawing and painting were not real drawing and painting. It felt like I was cheating. But after a few days I started to feel extremely good. Often times I lose track of time (thanks to Procreate, that doesn't show time during you draw in it), and an hour, two hours, three hours later I realise I had fun creating something. Incredible amount of fun.
So after just a short period of time I've learnt a lot of things. About myself, first of all. But also about creativity and discipline. Here's a little list.
Creativity fuels creativity
When I started to draw every day, after a few days I realised I don't want to stop. Not because of the challenge, but because I enjoyed it so much. Then, in a period of good vibes, came a moment when I noticed that my thoughts are building up from the energy that drawing induces. I started to observe things around me in a different – I dare to say deeper – way. Everything builds up of colours, lights and shadows. Every shape is beautiful. I try to depict everything in my head as I walk around. I remember this feeling from the days when I was doing creative work every day, and I missed it so much without realising what I was missing.
Creative blocks are real, but it's possible to get over them
After the first energy burst I felt a little bit of a setback. I was tired, I had no inspiration and I also felt like what I'm doing is useless. This was the time when the challenge came in handy. Without it I might have just stopped there and gave up. But because of it I tried to push myself through this period. I think the key here was tiredness. When I don't sleep enough I tend to think darker and I also doubt things easier. Because I knew it, the first thing I tried was sleeping a little bit more. And combined with the challenge it worked, I regained my energy. But I had to admit, that this thing is not continuous, I have to force myself to go forward, even when I don't necessarily have the energy. It reminded me of two things. One was that when I was much younger, I didn't know this, and felt extremely depressed during these periods. I didn't believe that I could come over them, my first thought was always doubt and that's the main reason I stopped creating things. In these cases it's really nice to have someone (ideally more than one person) around us who reminds us of our strengths and the fact that nobody is perfect, and nobody has it all, even if it seems like that. The other one was something I heard many times from many sources throughout the years, but never really paid attention to: practice makes perfect, or in other words: quantity will bring quality over time. I tend to forget this, and think that if I'm not able to do something right away it's because I suck at it and it doesn't even worth a second try. But it definitely does.
Perfectionism doesn't work
Over many years I thought 120% is the minimum goal in everything. I overachieved, or I didn't do it at all. There was no in between. I still struggle with this sometimes, but having kids taught me in the first place that it's impossible to live along these lines. In terms of creative processes it was the iPad, the Apple pencil and the Procreate app that helped me break this habit of perfectionism. Before that I often sat down in front of a piece of paper only to feel intimidated by the empty space. I thought I had to draw perfect lines from the beginning, or I would fail. But with this "trinity" (I had a Wacom tablet before, but that's just not the same) I experienced the freedom of drawing whatever, without the need of restarting over and over again, and with almost the same feeling as it was a sketchbook under my hands. This feeling then helped me being less afraid of paper too, something that I wasn't expected at all.
It's OK to skip days
This is part of perfectionism, but it's a very important factor to me. Before "96 sketches" any time I started a challenge that involved the need of showing up every day I almost always failed, because after the first skipped day I declared it as a failure and didn't continue at all. With this one I somehow overcame this and pick it up again and again as I go. I wanted to complete the challenge by New Years Eve, but I realised that it doesn't really matter. The only important thing is to keep going until all the 96 sketches are done. Because I find so much joy in creating them, I'm sure by now that I won't quit even if I miss a day or two. These first few weeks left a strong mark in me, and made sure I stay motivated despite the down periods. I know I don't want to turn back, because drawing gives me so much that I can't ignore the itch anymore.
Ideas are flowing
I could have written about this in the first point, because ideas come from creative thinking, but this also is a significant thing. As drawing and creativity became the essential part of my every days, I have new ideas constantly. I have enough for the next few years I think. It's a deep pool I can draw from, and the more I do, the more flows back in its place. It's crazy inspiring!
Discipline is important too
One thing I still have to learn is sticking to my plans. Creating plans and evaluating a situation are two of my strengths. I see systems in their entirety, and I'm also very aware of the details that need to be focused on. I'm really good at mapping a process and see its pitfalls. But sticking to these plans is not my forte. I'm constantly improving processes and systems, so I'm not a good executor of my own, often brilliant ideas. I'm like a crazy butterfly with ADHD sometimes. Now I can see it even more, and I'm determined to improve. Strange how a small thing like a(n almost) three-month challenge can change the way you think. Strange, but amazing.
(Sorry, I think I adore Ben Howard too much). So the last thing is that this challenge also changed my relationship with time in more than one way. I already mentioned that I don't feel time when I'm drawing. It feels like I'm outside of time then. But also it slowed that crazy paced time down a little bit. As I grow older, time goes by faster (I read a really good theory about this, here it is), but when I have a task to do, and it's challenging enough, my perception of time is a little bit different: it feels like it's slowing down. Just to give you an example of what I think here: when it's weekend and you (you lucky people without kids) can sleep as much as you want, or do whatever you want to do, two days are passing by in one blink of an eye. But when it's Monday, and you have two days of challenging work in front of you, on Tuesday morning you feel like time has stopped. So in my opinion if we find an activity what we enjoy, but what's also challenging enough, time won't fly by so rapidly. It can also be because we're focusing more on the moment instead of looking back or worrying about what's coming next. So time really is dancing, but it's also relative, and we can do a lot with it. I choose to use it as wisely as possible at the given moment.
So. Although I'm in the beginning of this journey, I encourage everyone to find the thing they are good at and love doing it enough to challenge themselves. It's pretty rewarding and fills up the soul. It makes me feel less lost and more focused. Let me know if you try it, and tell me about your experiences!