February Daily ProjectGuest Post, · Categories: Guest Posts
There is a thing that I know, and you know it too. Making stuff is both the best and the woorst thing ever. It is the best because you get to DO something, and have a tangible thing at the end of it, like an art, or a sock, or a document. It is the worst because what we produce is routinely not the lovely thing that we saw/wanted to emulate/exists in our head. That lovely thing, I am here to tell you, is a snare and a delusion. It is standing in the way of the things you can make by taunting you. Together, we are going to kill that lovely thing dead, and use the bones to seed a new habit, a new process, and a new willingness for you to make things. We, my beloveds, are going to make CRAP. On PURPOSE. It is gonna be great.
I would like to invite you to take the month of February to practice something every day, and see what happens. The thing you choose has to be easy for you (the low bar), it has to be fairly rigorously delimited (solid boundaries to push against) and you have to follow two simple rules.
There are reasons for these requirements. The first is that a low bar benefits everyone. The second is that without boundaries, you’ll be paralyzed. The third is that you have to leave it to someone else to define the rules, so you don’t get too hung up on outcome.
The Very Low Bar: The purpose of an absurdly low bar is to invite anyone and everyone to step over it, to prove, in fact, that anyone and everyone can step over it. Having stepped over it gives you a little jolt of accomplishment, which is a good thing, and encourages you to do it again. We are after that tiny jolt of encouragement that comes from doing the thing. That will propel you to do it again, and again, and again, which is practice. So choose something you have tools for. Choose something that you can set up quickly and clean up easily (or set up in a corner somewhere that won’t be disturbed). Lower the threshhold for doing the thing as much as you possibly can. To that end, it is perfectly legit to lay in a stock of things before Feb 1 – like pre-cut paper, sharpened pencils, the paints for this February’s palette, or all the ends of sock yarn you have on hand. Get a little excited about this process!
The Very Clear Boundaries: This is a lesson from Twyla Tharpe’s book The Creative Habit and reinforced by personal experience and even Orson Welles (“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” ) To this end, 1) you must put some lines around what you want to practice, and B) make that measurable. So choose a size, limit your palette, limit number of stitches you are knitting, limit yarn size, commit to buying nothing new, or using up all of a resource, do whatever you need to make the box you are creating around your project small enough to be a little constrictive, so that you can experiment with pushing at the edges without having to spend too much time finding the edges first. To make that measurable, choose metrics you can see, and count, things that are strictly mathematical or true/false. Your metrics matter, a lot. “Make one nice picture” is useless because who says it is nice? “I used up all the paint I had” is a very good metric because you can tell when you’ve achieved it and also it is pushing you towards more using and making.
If you liked doing that, do it again.
If you hated doing that, do it again.
We can talk about this, or you can just think about it a little. If you liked doing that, it was satisfying in some fashion. Chase that, and figure out what it was. If you hated doing doing that, something in it was aggravating or frustrating – figure out what, and try again but avoid that thing. Or maybe the frustration was around a thing you don’t know how to do – go look it up, and then try again. Lean towards what you like and is gratifying. Don’t shirk the frustrating stuff.
Some Additional Details:
February, as we all well know, is the longest month. The Romans did us a favor by chopping days off it until it felt as long as July, but since it has only 28 days this year, it is technically shorter by two or three days than any other month we have. Since we are going to do something daily, picking Feb to start seems like a good plan. And yes, we are going for daily, which is why the Low Bar and the Clear Boundaries are going to work in your favor. We are not working on making Art every day, we are working on making A Mess every day, and learning from it.
I’m going to be posting work to Instagram with #dailyFeb2018 for a hashtag. I hope you will join me. Tell me you are participating, and there will be prizes. There will be prizes for hitting your marks (use up something? Get a prize! Work every day for a week? Get ANOTHER prize! Make it Through Feb Every Day? A REALLY BIG PRIZE! I’m feeling really generous!) Post your project in the comments, friend me on Instagram (lee.thomson.art), hash-tag your work.
Get ready now!
Lee Thomson is finishing a mid-life crisis and looking around for dragons.