What would you do for 100 days?

Sometimes, I am most successful when I *think* the least. In April, I committed to completing an illustration every day and sharing it on social media for 100 days straight.

I plodded through my usual task-filled days, but all the while, I drew with little time to think about it other than “get it done.”

Before I knew it, 100 days were over, and I am only now making time to reflect.

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This is me cheering myself on–the most valuable skill I gained from #the100dayproject.

In short? I learned much more than I realized as I was doing it. I discovered:

—if I did my drawing in the morning, a feeling of accomplishment followed me throughout the rest of the day, making everything else, even completely unrelated tasks, feel easier.

—completing the daily challenge at night felt much harder, and I almost always disliked the result. BUT…

—done is better than perfect. It really and truly is. Repeat that: done is better than perfect.

—but also, Carrot Condo followers gave me much support and frequently liked an illustration I’d found unsatisfying. I learned that just because I feel bad about something doesn’t mean it is bad. Set it aside for a day or two and then assess.

These lessons apply to most anything, not just creative work. Something else I do every day is make meals for my little family: breakfast-lunch-dinner day in and day out. One night, I lamented that I wasn’t making anything particularly good. Supportive soulmate said, “ It’s fine.” Kiddo sits down to the table, takes a couple of bites, looks up at me: “Mommy? Is this dinner?”

Done is better than perfect. Done is better than perfect. Done is better than perfect.

Thanks to this challenge, I now have 100 illustrations I would not have otherwise. The pressure of daily practice forced me to try new things and follow through whether I loved it or not. The challenge out-paced perfectionism.

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The cake my friend gave me to celebrate completing 100 days!

You can see all 100 illustrations at: #100daysofcheer, and you can still comment to let me know what you think. You’ll certainly be seeing variations of some of these at craft shows this winter. More on that next month.

Thank you for your interest in my work at Carrot Condo. Your support keeps me motivated!

—TRISTA

the deep satisfaction of snail mail

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One of my favorite projects at Carrot Condo right now is my Customized Letters: two handwritten pages, both illustrated, and tucked into an envelope (also illustrated) and mailed once a month for five months.

So far, most of the letters have been purchased as a gift to someone. The customer tells me a little about the recipient: they like coffee, their non-profit work keeps them busy, they love books and the beach. Then, I write.

The recipient receives cheerful, fun mail each month and an excuse to put their feet up and read for a few minutes. No need to write back. All the fun of a pen pal without any of the obligation.

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What is not so simple to describe is how deeply satisfying these letters are for me to create. I have a real audience to write to (not a vaguely imagined editor), a real purpose (letter due February 5th), a prompt (he loves dogs), and a length limit. And, once the letter is created, I send it off. It’s not tucked away on a shelf or on my hard drive waiting around for a place and purpose.

Sometimes the illustration inspires what I write; sometimes the other way around, but the process always begins with looking at the recipient’s name, reviewing what I know about them, and just thinking about them for a few minutes before I start.

And except for one subscriber, I’ve never met any of the people I’m writing to.

A 70-year-old man named Tim Johnson recently wrote and mailed 108 handwritten letters in 108 days. He’s the first to come close to describing my experience (and I read four books about letter-writing before putting Customized Letters in my Etsy shop).

He says a lot of great things, but this was spot-on: “these letters demand more time, thought and effort than the typical email, but my reward is a sense of creative satisfaction as I come up with a soliloquy custom-made for a particular person.”

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Creative satisfaction, yes. And because each letter is unique and shared only with that recipient (the most anyone else sees are the pictures here), I don’t draw the same thing or tell the same story more than once, which gives me a rewarding creative challenge.

Fascinating how such a simple thing, a handwritten letter, can be so fulfilling. If you want to give it a try, egg press organizes a letter-writing challenge called write_on every April. Keep an eye on egg press’s blog for details. Taking part last year is what inspired my Customized Letters, and I plan to take part again this year.

Perhaps this Customized Letter project is only beginning …

Happy writing! (And, as always, thank you for reading and for your interest in Carrot Condo; I’m so glad you’re out there!)

30 letters in 30 days

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Did you once love writing and receiving letters by mail? For years now, my mail has mostly consisted of junk and a few bills. I miss the surprise of seeing a friend’s handwriting, colorful stickers and doodles, and the thickness of an envelope containing pages of story and musings.

And I remember spending long, satisfying hours hunched over a desk writing letters to friends, anticipating their reply.

So, I’m taking part in a challenge for the month of April. Would you like to join me?

It’s called “Write_On,” and the mission is to “promote joy, creativity, expression, and connection through hand-written correspondence.” The task: write 30 letters in 30 days during April, which happens to be National Letter Writing Month.

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stationery set available in my Etsy shop

Although I imagine quiet, thoughtful hours at the desk neatly “penning” letters to dear friends — my life just does not work that way right now. So, I’m sure the month will be a bit frenzied, my handwriting less than stellar, and many one-page letters dashed off and sent. Nevertheless, I’m doing it!

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Egg Press, the company that pressed my political postcard, created the event. Egg Press staff all take part in write_on. Here, Katelyn is standing next to their idea boards from previous years. Notice the bagel on the bulletin board? Yes, someone figured out how to mail a bagel.

My goals, so far, are to make my letters mostly thank you letters. Some political, many friend-neighbor-family focused. And, as much as time allows, I want to illustrate my own cards and stationery.

But really, I want to let the letter writing take me where it will. I want to get back to those days of much slower (and sloppier in my case) communication that involved so much reflection and love and consideration. Also, serendipity. I’m not sure who all I’ll write to, what they’ll say in response (if anything), or where it will all lead. I just know it will involve pens, color, stationery, cards, stamps, stickers, and walks to the “blue box” up the street to mail my letters.

You can do it however you wish, as long as you write 30 letters in 30 days, starting April 1st. I’ll be sharing updates on Instagram and here, and I’d love to hear how you’re doing as well.