You hear it all the time: If you’re serious about your art, you plug away at it EVERY SINGLE DAY.
I’m on the fence about whether this advice is useful. I know that if we’re being honest with ourselves, we rarely manage to do something daily. Yet we try and when we don’t succeed, we harangue ourselves for not measuring up.
Still, there’s some benefit from practicing something on a daily basis. I recently completed a 58-day project. The mission was to do one drawing a day in my Moleskine accordion notebook.
I did this because I wanted the comfort and regularity of drawing, and I liked the idea of recording my life visually. It was great fun and I also gained a lot for my creative life overall.
Here’s what a daily practice taught me that you may benefit from as well:
Daily means that again and again you face and conquer the daunting horror of the blank page. You train yourself to keep moving past it to fill the page with your brilliance. Every single first line I put down was accompanied by the gremlin whispering: “This drawing sucks, that’s not right, you stink at drawing…” Because I couldn’t accept two lines as a complete drawing, I kept going despite this critical voice and almost always came out with a drawing that pleased me.
Except for when I wasn’t pleased. Not every drawing is good. That’s okay. When you practice daily, you get used to a range of proficiency. You grow to understand that not everything you produce will be amazing, and that making more (bad) stuff is better than making just a little bit of (good) stuff.
You discover that you can make time for art or writing in your life. Even a few sips can make a difference. Bit by bit, you see that there is room in your days for your creative practices.
You observe your creative patterns developing over time. You come to recognize what you avoid and what you settle for. You train yourself to identify your style.
You develop your skill. I’m terrible at drawing people. Or at least I think I am. I actually can draw people’s bodies, but I’m terrible with faces. But I don’t avoid drawing them; instead, I keep practicing. I’m still not pleased with my results but bit by bit I learn how to draw a nose or a mouth.
You glean the pleasure of creating on a regular basis. This feels way better than avoiding your creative genius. When you recognize the pleasure of creating, it positively impacts the rest of your life.
With my daily drawing, I had a regular connection with my creativity that was process-oriented instead of results-focused. This allowed me to relax and play. Working in a medium that’s not my primary focus gives me a sense of depth and contour that I don’t get from writing.
You develop trust in yourself, that you can keep your commitments and enjoy them. Use this trust to build confidence in yourself for bigger projects.
There’s much more to be gleaned from a daily practice. What benefits do you notice?
Working with my clients, I notice that we can also turn useful structures and systems into fodder for our inner critic. We almost always have to tweak things to suit our unique way of creating. To help set yourself up to succeed, here are some common pitfalls to watch out for:
Daily drudgery A daily practice can easily become daily drudgery. Don’t let your commitment become a burden. Find ways to enjoy it.
Last-minute practice Doing the drawing earlier in the day rather than later helped a lot. A couple of times I found myself going to bed when I realized I had not done the drawing. Doing the drawing at the last minute was not fun.
Catching yourself unprepared Have your tools and resources easily available. I carried my notebook with me, ready to draw whatever was around. This made it more fun and spontaneous.
Boxing yourself in with rules I didn’t develop a lot of rules for myself other than to play and explore. Some of my favorite drawings were ones where I thought, “I don’t know if I can do that, but I’ll try.”
I’m an advocate of a daily practice as long as you make it work for you. I hate the thought of a daily practice becoming an onerous burden on your days.
Coaching inquiry: What works for you to maintain a daily practice?