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

Look Away And Draw

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Mister Rogers sweater of optimism

My own imagination is the main reason I put off starting an illustration. I dream up some idea, and in my mind it stays amorphous–not fully formed or solid, yet perfect. Therefore, any pencil stroke that begins the actual illustration looks horribly inferior to the idea in my head.

And as much as I grumble about doing my daily drawing practice, my grouchiest, briefest efforts keep resulting in the best images. I think it’s because I’ve dropped my standards as low as they’ll go: just put the pencil on the paper for a few seconds and call it “done.” There are no expectations, and therefore, it’s hard to feel disappointed. I’m just glad I can claim that I did my daily practice.

However, I observed a way to side-step this perfectionism or whatever you call this fear that keeps us from starting a project because in making it, we might muck it up. I’ll call it: “look away and draw.”

I got the idea from my 2.5-year-old friend, Dot. She and I were drawing one day, and I noticed that she’d choose a pen color, set the pen down on her blank paper, and then look away behind her at the closet.

I thought she was getting distracted, and I was about to re-focus her on her drawing when she spun her head around, looked at her paper, and squealed because what had been a blank, white page, now had vibrant swirls of color on it. I hadn’t noticed that she’d been moving the pen while she looked away at the closet. She thoughtfully chose a second color, set the pen down, looked away, drew, and looked back with delight and satisfaction.

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Dot’s drawing. I see a blue-haired lady and a red-faced man.

I don’t know if I’m telling you to do your creative work blindfolded–but I have known writers who turn their computer screens to dark and then start typing without being able to read as they go. What struck me about Dot’s process is her zealous curiosity and thrilled satisfaction.

Rather than fretting about how the project won’t hold up to the ideal in our minds, we could be curious about how it will turn out, curious about what other paths it will take as it comes together, excited to see how it takes shape rather than focused on the finished image matching the ethereal idea in our minds. We could feel satisfied that we’re working on something, however it’s turning out.

The whole creative process might be more satisfying this way, but the hardest part for me, the getting-started-part, would be less painful, and I’d be less likely to put off getting started if I could think, “Hm, I’m curious to see how this will look…”

I heard a story on public radio about a study that showed that people who faced nerve-racking things to do (like a job interview) felt less stress and had lower blood pressure when they said to themselves, “I’m excited!” rather than “This is so freaking terrifying.” Well, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve done it. I was so anxious about some things that I made myself say, “I’m excited!” out loud. I felt like an idiot for a quarter of a second and then: it worked! I felt capable and fine, not freaked out.

So–put on your Mister Rogers sweater of optimism, cultivate curiosity about how your project will unfold, stand in your power pose and say, “I’m excited!”

We can feel ridiculous together while getting a bunch of creative work done and out into a world that needs it.

Serve The Whole Chicken

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I had a dream about my friend Michele. We were talking on the phone, and she admitted she was having a tough time and struggling. Then, she said with a resigned sigh: “You know, you’ve got to serve the whole chicken, not just the sweet parts.”

I woke up laughing and wondering what the “sweet parts” of a chicken are and then realized I’d rather not know.

But I love the saying so much I’m working on creating lettering to embroider it on kitchen towels for Michele and me.

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It’s an important message for me in creativity and in life. I so often waste energy and stifle creativity by trying to avoid discomfort, disappointment, and disorder. And yet, like Michele said, you’ve got to serve the whole chicken. The “un-sweet” parts can’t be avoided, well, not if you want to live a creative and vivid life, anyway.

Plus, I’m learning in my drawings, whether it’s a flower or creature, when it turns out “cutesy” and bland, I’m avoiding a painful truth. When I let the less savory emotions into the drawing, even for my simple flowers or whimsical creatures, the drawing has much more to say and stays interesting long after it’s finished.

It’s a hard lesson for me to live. I’d rather everything be a sunny 70 degrees all the time, but maybe that would actually zap creative drive?