I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. — Philippians 4:13
“How do you win?” “What is the prize?”
These were just two of the many questions I asked my daughter, Robin, when she told me about The 100-Day Project. In early April, The Great Discontent, a tri-annual print publication and online magazine focused on creativity, offered a challenge by asking, “What could you do with 100 days of making?” The magazine described The 100-Day Project this way:
It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal . . . it’s about the process. Who should participate? Anyone who is hungry to jump-start their creative practice, who is curious about being part of a community that celebrates process, and those who are busy with work and family commitments, but searching for a bite-sized way to play creativity.
“There’s no prize,” Robin explained. “It’s a way to challenge yourself.”
It’s difficult for me to turn away from a good challenge, especially if I get to share my passion for quilting, and there was a project I had been trying to get to for over a year. However, as my days are usually ruled by pressing commitments and deadlines, I could never seem to get to it. I often told myself to just set aside a few minutes a day to work on it, but I had trouble applying myself due to the enormity of my goal — to recreate a photo of my home in fabric. It would be the centerpiece of a memory quilt I had designed. I kept thinking about the project as a whole, rather than the incremental steps needed to get it done, and, as a result, it overwhelmed me. The 100-Day Project seemed like a good way to help me get started.
Anyone who knows me well, is aware that I take commitments very seriously. If I say I will do something, there are few boundaries I would not cross to get it done. Even if it’s just a commitment I made to myself, I will lose sleep, skip meals and drive myself and my husband crazy until I have fulfilled my promise. One of my favorite children’s books is Horton Hatched the Egg, by Dr. Seuss. If you have young children whom you would like to teach about commitment, this is a great book. To give a mama bird a much-deserved vacation, Horton promised to sit on her nest, keeping watch over her egg. Though others in the jungle tried to coax him off, he would not leave the nest. He repeated over and over, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant . . . an elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!” I’m a little like Horton.
So, when Robin told me about this project, I knew if I committed to it, I would stick with it. This was just the impetus I needed. Besides it was just one hundred days. How hard could it be?
As required by the rules, I gave my project a title — #100DaysOfDesigningAQuiltBlock. I broke the process down into small steps. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, and more importantly, I wanted to stretch it out for 100 days. Each day I was to post on Instagram a picture of my “making.” On Day 1 (April 6), I posted a photo of my home. On Day 2, I posted a scanned copy of the photo of my home, having outlined the parts I wanted to recreate. Day 3, I redrew my house, and so it continued. Day after day I posted one more step in the process. My daily “making” was posting my work to Instagram.
I began to acquire followers and, as I also shared on Facebook, my friends were showing interest. Many expressed their excitement about seeing the finished project. My commitment became broader with fans waiting in the wings. I was in for the long haul, but I was only on Day 10!
At first, I believed the challenge was just about setting aside the time to create and post, which that in itself was very challenging given the other obligations in my life. As the days passed, however, I was presented with deeper challenges. The more I shared, I realized I was exposing my secrets. Very few people had ever seen the process of my work. Friends, family and those attending my presentations would “ooh” and “aah” over the finished products, not knowing all the intricacies involved in creating them. I sometimes felt like a magician who could take bits of fabric and thread, a little paint and a bead or two, and, with nothing up my sleeve (except maybe some smeared paint), turn it all into a beautiful fabric flower. In the midst of admirers, even I would forget all the work that went into creating a quilted wall hanging. Now, through this challenge, I was showing it all. I was exposing the trap door behind the black curtain. Soon everyone would know — I’m no magician.
Another challenge I faced was whether or not to post my mistakes. Yes, it’s true. I make mistakes! There were a few days when all I did on the project was rip out the previous day’s work. If I’m not happy with something, it’s got to go, especially if it’s a project I will be looking at for a long time. As the day was coming to an end and with much trepidation, I bared all. I posted my mistakes on Instagram and Facebook. No one seemed to care that much.
Something else I had to talk myself into was revealing my sketches. I enjoy planning out my projects on a sketch pad, but up until this challenge, I had never shared my drawings. Art was always my favorite subject in elementary and high school, but I needed a job so typing and shorthand courses seemed the prudent course. Even as I approach the beginning of my sixth decade, I still have voices of the past in my head telling me I’m not really an artist. I am a self-taught sketcher which serves me well for quilting, but could I really show that part of me? Would the authentic artists out there point out my skewed sense of dimension and scale? It was a chance I would have to take — I was faithful to this challenge, 100 percent! I posted my drawings. The reviews were all positive!
Almost every day, no matter how tired I was or how creatively depleted I felt, I posted. One hundred days is more than three months (I wish I had thought to do the math early on) so it was impossible to not miss a few days. We were away for a week, but by planning ahead, I was able to post most of that week. There were some unexpected circumstances, too, that caused me to miss a day here and there, but I was always able to make up those days by posting multiple times on the following days.
Though I thought I had planned carefully, something unexpected happened. I finished my house block in less than 40 days. I smiled as I recalled how long I had put the project off when it turned out it only took me about a month to complete it. I was grateful for the incentive The 100-Day Project gave me, but I wasn’t sure what to do next. I asked Robin, “Can I drop out?” She said, “Mom! You’re not a quitter!” She was right so I pushed on. I had another photo, one taken in 2000, that I had always wanted to make into a wall hanging. There would be no more putting things off.
I turned my 100-day obligation into my personal, serious responsibility. I was like Hurley
on “Lost” (ABC Television Series, 2004-2010) who had to enter a special 10-digit number into the computer each day to avoid assured disaster. “Post Day __” was on my daily to-do list between “clean the cat litter” and “do a load of wash.” It was my job. Some days I was Hurley and other days I was Horton, but mostly I was just tired me, lifted by the Holy Spirit, feeling good about my accomplishments. I had a purpose and I was not going to let myself down.
In my presentations, I speak about the importance of doing something creative each day. There have been numerous studies on how valuable this practice is for your overall health. The best way to snap out of a bad mood or distract yourself from aches and pains is to pick up a pen, a paint brush, a crochet hook or even a crayon. It works! Of course, I practice this advice daily and I can attest to it’s value. I did not need The 100-Day Project to help me to be more creative. I needed it to help me move beyond my personal barriers. I wanted to climb over the wall that was keeping me trapped in a world of shouting “shoulda’s, woulda’s, and coulda’s.”
Not to be too mellow dramatic, but the last year has been challenging. I, unexpectedly, found myself in a place where I had to “let go” and be accepting of things I had no control over. I had many moments of self-pity, asking myself, “what do I do now?” I was still following through on my sewing commitments and keeping up on my home. However, I was pretty much just going through the motions of life, as is repetitively recommended in every self-help article out there. I have a quote pasted up on the wall of my studio, “I can’t be happy everyday, but I can choose to be cheerful.” Most days, I did choose to be cheerful, but I wasn’t happy about it. I was lacking my usual excitement about my work.
On Day 68, I was at church listening to Psalm 92 — “Proclaim your kindness at dawn and
your faithfulness throughout the night!” My mind drifted and conjured up an idea. Darn, no sketching during mass. Once home, I quickly sketched out my idea. It was a rough drawing, but I proudly posted it to Facebook, confessing, “I should have been paying attention at mass, but I was thinking about my work!” My daughter, Laura, chimed in, “Um yeah, I think God will let this one pass.” It suddenly dawned on me. I had a renewed excitement about my work.
My friends continued to motivate me to keep going. Their comments were often touching, which inspired my creative spirit. I had no idea how some friends had thought about my quilting until they commented under one of my posts. I treasure their words. Even the many “likes” spurred on my resolve to go another day.
Early on, along with my other fears, I was afraid of being boring. I wondered, who would want to see this stuff? As often as possible, I pushed myself to try new techniques and choose elaborate embellishments. If I had a day when all I could do was show the fabric I was using, I arranged it in a fun way. Once I made a “cake” out of my materials, and another time, I made a tree. I considered my followers every day. I rarely posted just to get it done. Rather, I carefully thought about the viewers.
Yesterday was Day 100. I posted the completed wall hanging inspired by the 2000 photo. It’s
embellished with beads, buttons, glitter, and my own crocheted trim, things I would not have done 15 years ago. Under my post I added this from Hans Christian Anderson: “Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” So true.
There’s no prize, my daughter said? I beg to differ. I’ve just been given a whole new Day 1! I can’t wait to start making . . .