How to Easily Sustain a Daily Creative Project

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I recently completed a daily painting project that lasted 93 days. If you’re wondering why such a random number, it’s because that’s how many pages were in the sketchbook I was using! That in itself should tell you something about my approach.

Typically I’m not someone who enjoys repetitive activity. It has always puzzled me why I don’t seem to share that ability other artists have of painting the same subject over and over, or going to the studio every day at the same time and putting in a certain amount of hours.

I know that I’m not alone in this, and I don’t believe it comes down to whether you are disciplined or not. I think often we see others sticking to a schedule, or putting out consistently recognisable work, and when we find that we don’t seem to be able to operate like that, we use it as a reason to not take any action at all, or to berate and invalidate ourselves for not doing it ‘properly’.

How can there be a ‘properly’ when we are all unique individuals? My preferred method, which is something I’m still playing with, is to operate solely from flow. That means no set time of day or time period, no ‘this is how it will be’ rules. I follow the energy and that way when I do take action it tends to be far more successful. {And I decide also what successful means for me.}

My ‘DailyScapes’ project was a good example of this. These are the reasons why I believe it worked, and how I was able to actually be consistent every day for 93 days, when I know myself to be someone who resists that.

1. I didn’t specify a length. I had no plans beyond exploring the idea of creating a small ‘scape’ every day. Nor did I intend to finish the sketchbook. I decided to just do it for as long as it felt interesting and fun.
2. I didn’t specify a subject – ‘scapes’ became a very loose term for simply playing – or a medium, or a time of day to do them, or an amount of time to spend. I decided that whatever I did do would be absolutely fine, no second guessing.
3. I shared my scapes on Instagram and Facebook and gave them a hashtag. The  combination of accountability, the lovely discussions that arose from sharing them and talking about what I was doing, and the satisfaction of being able to click on my hashtag and see the scapes accumulating all helped me keep going.
4. On days when I didn’t feel like it I let myself make a few simple marks and leave it at that. Interestingly those often turned out to be favourites.
5. I discovered that by taking action, I inspired others to do likewise. That was deeply gratifying and inspired me to continue, thus creating a wonderful creative loop!
6. I heard all the voices saying things like ‘oh I’m really not in the mood’ or ‘this is too crap to show anyone’ and went ahead anyway. 

I don’t believe it’s necessary to create rigid structures in which to create. For many of us they turn out to be off putting and end up contributing to procrastination, which can lead to further loss of confidence.

My DailyScapes project showed me that sometimes only the simplest container – in this case one sketchbook and an intention to play for a few minutes each day – can be more than enough to generate the momentum and interest required to keep going with a daily creative project. I now have a pleasingly full sketchbook full of memories and jumping off points for future paintings.

How might you embark on a daily project of your own? If you’ve been feeling you want to do something like this but are not sure how to do it in a sustainable way, what could you take from my discoveries and test out? It doesn’t have to be about painting; you could do a daily cooking project, a daily writing project, or a daily knitting project. The point is, tiny steps and make it easy!

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