10 ways to help you succeed your 365 days project

photo of open sketchbooks filled during a year

Last year on the 4th of june I challenged myself to draw and share these drawings on instagram everyday. Today marks 371 days in a row. (see the overview here)

There were 10 things that helped me stay focused:

1 Don’t overthink, just start!

I read a lot about doing a project for 365-days. This always sounded inspiring, but also overwhelming to me. The overwhelming part was figuring out what to do exactly that would be interesting and challenging enough to do for a whole year. I toyed around with ideas, but usually abandoned them before even starting.

And then, one day, I just started. It was the first day of a two-month trip through America and I wanted to record my travel memories by drawing. Everyday for those two months I had all the time in the world to draw and interesting subjects galore.

2. Become a chain smoker

Austin Kleon stated in his book “show your work” that in your art it’s a good thing to become a chain smoker, not cigarettes of course, but projects, drawings or whatever it is you want to do. Do it repeatedly and above all don’t break the chain!

One day becomes two and then a week and before I knew it a whole month had passed without missing a single day. The more days passed successfully the more motivating the number of days I was doing this became.

When you have succeeded for 31 days in a row, the thought of giving up on day 32 felt like the days before were a huge waste of time. So I kept going.

3. Change course when you need to

After two months of travelling we returned home and I was dedicated to continue my daily drawing. The first week went well, the next week a little less so. I felt like I was running out of interesting subjects to draw. I decided to change course a little and started drawing from my imagination. Later I changed course by joining a group that worked with daily prompts.

4. No excuses

I set a rule for myself that I would always have to do the drawing the day I was posting it, never posting old work, and never working ‘upfront’.

5. Accept the bad days/ Don’t expect everyday to be amazing/fantastic/ your best work ever

You will not get a great result everyday, sometimes you’re just not happy with what you’ve made that day. That’s life. Just keep sharing and keep going. If every day has to produce fantastic work the expectation is so high you will likely fail on one of the first days of feeling uninspired or in a rut. And feeling uninspired or in a creative rut happens to all of us. But if you just keep going it can bring you new ways of thinking or it can tell you something about things you could improve, skills you need to learn.

6. Work smaller if necessary

My first two months I’ve spent hours and hours on each drawing. But let’s face it, you don’t have the luxury of so much time to spend everyday, or at all.

Since I work for myself and get to plan my whole day I would start my day with the drawing. But it would take me more and more time to get it done and the rest of my to-do list suffered greatly. Time to look for a better option. I changed it up to drawing in the evenings after dinner. I had finished my work for that day and had the freedom to draw the whole evening. But let’s face it, sometimes you have other plans (see point 7) and sometimes you are tired. Scaling down to drawing smaller and less detailed is the way to go on these days. And that’s ok, as they say “Done is better than perfect”.

7. Lose the guilt

I had a lot of moments when I felt guilty that my commitment to this daily project took time away from the people around me. It felt selfish that I could not set aside this silly drawing thing and spent my undivided attention to loved ones. This might be one of the biggest challenges for me.

I often apologized: I am sorry, I really need to do this now, but to be honest, the only one who minded was me. I would draw while having drinks with friends, or after a dinner with family. Most people love watching someone draw and often come up with suggestions of what to add. Others are just proud you’re sticking to what’s important to you.

So my advice for this point: Just get over it!

8. Don’t wait for inspiration

Some days you’re really inspired and excited. Other days just not… I joined an instagram group (organized by Johanna Fritz, a fellow illustrator from Germany). Johanna would set up a list of daily prompts and we would draw this everyday. This worked well when I was out of ideas. The prompt wasn’t always exciting or it was something that’s really hard to make interesting. Like Cats (I just don’t really like cats…) or washing machines. Just start doodling around, eventually something pops up. It really helped me to come up with some kind of story around the prompt. In the case of the washing machine: What if your best friend, your teddybear needs a wash, what will you do in the meantime?

9. There are no ways out!

A lot of times people around me suggested that I would draw 5 days a week instead of the full 7 days. Or other ‘helpful’ suggestions. I thought about it for a while, I was already 3 months in. Then I figured out what it was that made it work for me: no excuses! And please don’t build in any possible excuses, don’t make it even harder on yourself to stick to it!

The thing with sticking to a schedule that allows you time of (like 5 days instead of 7) is that it becomes really easy to say: I will skip today, but I will make up for it by doing one extra in the weekend. Let’s be honest, it is so easy to make that one day into two and then into three until you have no more time to make up for lost days. Like I said at point 4: the art has to be made on the day I post it, so no possibilities to work upfront, or backwards in this case.

One of the advices on doing challenges like these is often: ‘it is OK to miss a day’. But honestly, it is not. That doesn’t work for me.

Slacking off is easy, don’t make it even more easy.

10. Completing is rewarding, in more ways than you think.

Doing this daily thing is rewarding in more ways than I could have foreseen. It taught me discipline, it taught me that you have good days and bad days, but if you keep going the good days will come around again. It taught me: I can do this! I can do what I set my mind to. Great for your self-esteem.

The hurdle of sharing my work has almost disappeared, I was always afraid of criticism, I am my own worst enemy. I don’t die when I share something that’s not my absolute best work.

I’ve met so many nice and talented people online and their support and their own process is super inspiring.

Most important of all:

I found my style.

That was always I think I felt not comfortable saying. I didn’t know what my style was. This week it would be like this, the next time like that. By drawing everyday I got to see a really clear pattern and feel comfortable about my own style now.

Have you ever thought about doing a daily thing like this? Or are you in the middle of it? What are your ways to make it work or what is your biggest struggle? I would love to hear from you.

photo of open sketchbooks filled during a year


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