Ever since I became a graphic designer in 2014, I’ve been watching people do “The 100 Day Project” on Instagram. The rules are simple: Dedicate a hundred days to your creativity, whatever form that takes. Choose a project and stick to it for just over three months and share your progress on Instagram using the hashtag #the100dayproject. That sounds easy enough, and this year I decided to participate.
I spent about a week thinking about what my project could be – get back into lettering and do inspirational quotes? Learn food photography? Draw flowers and herbs while learning about their medicinal properties? The longer I thought about it, the more complicated my ideas became. Until I landed on what felt like the ultimate combination of creativity and wellness: Mandalas. And they have such beautiful meaning too! Which brings me to a few lessons I wanted to share…
1 Every little step counts
I didn’t choose to draw a mandala every day. I chose to draw #the100daymandala – one big artwork, evolving over 100 days. Because in life just as in creativity, small actions taken consistently add up to a whole. Even if I was only spending 2 minutes drawing one circle a day, over 100 days it turned into an artwork I otherwise would have never completed. I probably would have lost patience.
Looking at the result, it now reminds me of the fact that whatever you do, every little step towards your goal counts. Every paint stroke to an artwork. Every time you use a keep cup. Every healthy food choice you make. Every piece of rubbish you pick up at the beach. Every time you go to the gym, yoga studio or for a run.
Every. Single. Step. Counts.
2 Stop and smell the roses
We sometimes need to remind ourselves that every little step counts. This artwork did that so beautifully. By looking at it every day I could see how far I had come. Every day it offered me a few minutes of mindfulness. A moment of wonder. An opportunity to be grateful. I can only urge you to apply this to whatever goal you set for yourself. Don’t forget to keep track of how far you’ve come, and stop every once in a while to admire it and give yourself some credit.
3 Embrace imperfection
Another reason why a mandala felt right was that you can’t really do anything ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. Mandalas have been used for thousands of years across all kinds of spiritual and non-spiritual communities – from Indian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, to Mayan calendars, to art in catholic churches, to various applications in psychology, architecture and science (you can read all about it over on Wikipedia). The only rule is that it’s somewhat round because it generally symbolises the infinity of the universe. That lack of rules took a lot of pressure off – there was no need to overthink it. Nothing to measure up to. That felt quite liberating. Who defines what ‘perfect’ is anyway?
4 Every day there is infinite possibility
Because there is no right way of doing a mandala, it happened that every day I found myself in front of an almost blank canvas again. I was free to do whatever I felt like. I could draw waves, flowers, flames, bubbles, triangles, or simple lines. I could repeat the pattern from the day before or start a new one. I could go tiny or big. I could work with lines, dots and swirls. The possibilities were endless. And so even if it may seem trivial, it didn’t get boring!
5 When you think there’s nowhere else to go, you’ll still find a way
The possibilities hit a barrier when about halfway through the project, I reached the end of the paper. What now? Use sticky tape and add more paper at the edges? Start a new project halfway through? I wanted to keep working on the one artwork and keep building on it, so I decided to start again from the center and add colour. That offered another set of possibilities – choose a set amount of colours or decide anew each day? Go monochrome or complete rainbow? I chose yellow and gold as a base and red, purple and turquoise as accent colours.
6 Timing is NOT everything
There were days when I didn’t get to do my few minutes of drawing. Like, when I spent 28 hours travelling from Australia to Germany, or on my sisters wedding day. But it didn’t matter because I could make up for it another day. No one noticed or cared if my posts were exactly 24 hours apart or not, as long as it was somewhat consistent. And I think the lesson from that is that even if you started an artwork years ago, it’s never too late to add more paint strokes to it.
Over to you
Have you ever done a creative challenge? What did you learn from it? Let me know in the comments!