What 30 days of (relentless) creation taught me

So, I’m now officially on the other side of my 30-day challenge to create something new every day, and… wow! That was amazing. Of all my 30-day challenges, this was the most fun, the most frenetic, the most exhilarating, and the most fruitful. I took the challenge very seriously, and only twice did I double up after having missed a day.

And now…

What I Learned During 30 Days of Creation

1. When you’re hell-bent on creating, there’s no time for perfectionism.

It’s hard for me to shake my inner critic; this despite the fact that I could not agree more with Anne Lamott’s shitty-first-draft philosophy. I think in the beginnings of a piece, it’s best to just get it all down, wild and unedited. That’s when the best stuff happens (and the worst stuff, too, but still). In that wild, uninhibited place, you can surprise yourself and your art can take you places you never imagined going. I know that. I’ve experienced it. And yet it’s a struggle for me to get there every time.

One of the things I liked best about this challenge was that my commitment to making something every single day was genuinely more important to me than my need to be perfect (or even good). One night (or actually, it was morning by then), I filled a page with blooming flowers while my lids kept sliding further and further down my eyes. “I can finish,” I thought, sleepily. “Just a few more petals.” And when I did, I felt so accomplished. It was one of the simplest drawings I did during the challenge, but I felt like I’d just created a masterpiece, focused entirely on the process. One bird petal at a time.

2. Playtime is not only good, it’s essential.

It was a creative funk that led me to this challenge. I felt uninspired and then dismayed to realize that I’d been feeling that way for quite some time. I’d become too serious. I’d done this really badass thing of creating a business around my art, and then I’d proceeded to rob the creative process of all its joy.

During this challenge, I found my joy. I finally jumped into the collage class I’d signed up for weeks before, and I made my first messy collage (which I love even more for its NOT looking even remotely like the perfect image I had in my head). I played with watercolor and acrylic paints, lots of colored pens and pencils, tiles, canvas boards, and several kinds of paper. I doodled sometimes without any idea of what I would make, and once I didn’t know what I’d made even after I’d made it!

It was fun, and the more I experimented, the more I wanted to experiment. I didn’t worry or even consider which things might wind up in my Etsy shop, and that was freeing. In the words of Julia Cameron, I filled the well. I’m energized, full of ideas , and champing at the bit.

The funk is no more.

3. Action is therapeutic.

When you’re feeling stuck and uninspired, act. Take a hike. Take a picture. Unwind in a soulful place. Spend a year dedicated to fearless love. Embark on your own 30-day challenge.

I truly believe that the best way to get unstuck is to move, shake things up, change how your days unfold. I believe it because I keep proving it to myself, over and over again.

4. Creativity (like love) is a practice.

And like all practices it gets easier – and deeper – over time. When I started this challenge I felt very adrift and uncertain. I wondered if maybe I didn’t have the fortitude and/or talent it takes to build a business around my art. Now, after 30 days of creation, I feel more deeply committed than ever. I don’t know where this path will take me, but I know the direction is north, and for now, that’s enough. Though the challenge ended a few days ago, I’ve continued the daily practice, and even on those days when “I just don’t wanna,” I am always glad I did.

5. We have time for what we care about.

This was the hardest thing to learn. I use the “I don’t have time” excuse a lot. But the truth is, I do have time. I make time for the stuff I want to do. I have time to read great blogs and websites… and then tweet the most interesting links. I have time to watch Netflix, and check in on Facebook, and check my email way too many times a day.

During this 30-day challenge, I made time to create. Sometimes that meant that I didn’t watch TV or log into the internet. I made a choice. And the truth is… time is always a choice. We absolutely do have time for the things we care about… so it’s good, every now and then, to pause, take a breath, and get absolutely clear about what those things are.

And then fill our days accordingly.


Throughout this challenge, I shared musings and insights and even some pictures with the amazing people on my email list, and they shared some gems of their own with me. If you’d like to join in those behind-the-scenes conversations, sign up! I’d love to see you there.

And, I’m leaving this weekend to take The Boy to college. We’re making a road trip out of it – just him and me. I’ll be taking the next couple of weeks off of blogging to focus on that trip… and then my  mommy-mourning. I’ll be back September 5th. In the meantime, I’ll be on Facebook, so you can catch me there, and I’ll be writing about the whole messy, unavoidable, time-tested ordeal of moms sending their boys off to college on Huffington Post.

Stay tuned.