It was July 2016 when I finally decided to pursue graphic design as a serious side hustle. I spent months toying with the idea, and got so frustrated by my own indecision that I felt an urgency to just start and see what happens. I started compiling older designs for my portfolio and looking for graphic design jobs on Craigslist. I opened Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and played around with the programs every couple days to get in the habit of designing.
What I discovered is that my designs weren’t very good. They were trying to be good, but they weren’t quite there yet. It was frustrating. I made a conscious decision to pursue design, how was it possible that all my designs made me feel a lackluster sense of disappointment?! My skill and ability to actualize creative projects wasn’t quite up to par — yet. I kept trudging through; designing brands for friends and doodling in my spare time. Trying to push through this phase where my designs didn’t quite live up to the version I had imagined in my head.
Ira Glass describes this phenomenon as “the creative gap,”
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
November 2016 I discovered Elle Luna’s 100 Day Project, a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. I understood that a 100 Day Project emphasized quantity over quality, which is exactly what I needed to close the gap between my skill and taste. I made a New Years resolution to complete my own 100 Day Project in 2017. But what inspires and excites me enough to create for 100 days straight? The quick and easy answer: cats. My cat, other people's cats, cats in general. And I know I'm not alone in this affinity with cats, so I figured other people would get a kick out of my project as well. Win-win.
I started my “100 Cats in 100 Days" project on January 10 and finished on April 20. I posted each photo on Instagram using the hashtag #100cats100days and #100daysproject.
Here is what happened to my creative process during the 100 Day Project:
- I got faster at designing.
- I got good at coming up with a lot of ideas.
- I felt personal fulfillment from experimenting and discovering new tricks and tools.
- I got closer to finding my creative voice.
- I learned that I like colored pencils and invested in a nice Prismacolor set!
Most notably, I learned, firsthand, the importance of quantity over quality.
Making a lot of stuff is how you determine what you like, don’t like, and what to try the next time around. I learned this firsthand as I worked on my 100 Day Project. Sometimes I scanned paper into photoshop to create a unique texture. Sometimes I preferred sketching out a more conceptual design. And sometimes I wanted to experiment with typography. So I did all those things. This was my own personal project, which meant I wasn’t as concerned with making anything “good” or “pretty” but rather experimentation and discovery. How often do we get to throw caution to the wind and create for the sake of curiosity? As a result of this project, I learned the answer to that question is every day.
One day I showed my 100 Day Project to a friend. She loved it, mostly. Scanning through my Instagram feed she came across one of my more conceptual designs and remarked, “What happened here?”
“Oh, I wanted to try something in a different style,” I replied, awkwardly, and a tad embarrassed.
Reflecting on that incident now, I realize I had nothing to be ashamed of. This was a completely experimental project, and I learned a lot from making the design that she didn’t like. I even used some of those kooky elements in a future project for a client! Producing a lot of work is essential to develop a process and product that makes you proud. Eventually, people will want to see more of the stuff that you make because you’ve honed in on your creative voice.
Completing your own 100 Day Project could transform your creative output, allow you to experiment with something new, and give you the confidence to move closer toward your creative dreams. Why not give it a shot before the year is over?!
Here are some important dates to remember if you’re wanting to start and finish your own 100 Day Project before 2018:
- If you start your 100 Days Project on September 1, your 100 Days Project will be complete by December 9.
- September 23 is the last day to start a 100 Days Project and finish by December 31!
Unsure what kind of 100 Day Project to complete? Send me an email and we can brainstorm together: firstname.lastname@example.org
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