Two years ago I was about to start a project that would take a year to complete and is, in some senses, ongoing. I made, as I’m sure regular readers of my blogs and whatnot know, a drawing for every day of 2013. I’d often thought of doing something protracted, but usually in the middle of March and I’d always shelve it until January 1st. Of course, on that day I’d be too distracted or forgetful to start anything much.
So, perhaps you’re thinking of attempting something that will take a year to complete and want to start, appropriately enough, on January 1st. Good, you’ve got a few days to think about it and to sort out a strategy. I’m assuming that you want to generate something that you wouldn’t otherwise do. That might be physical: in my case it was drawings, but it could be text (and there are LOADS of people online who recommend that you write every day, regardless of content), or perhaps something more crafty (embroidery or cross stitch would work) or perhaps something less tangible (reading to your kids, maybe).
Whatever you decide to do I offer the following top tips:
1 – Choose something that’s tricky but achievable. Small stuff done daily builds up surprisingly quickly. You can make the intangible tangible by ticking off a calendar.
2 – If you need to prepare stuff, do as much of it as possible ahead of time. This will allow you to concentrate on the activity, not the ancillary stuff that it generates. When I did my 365 drawings, I worked from photographs that I prepared in batches using Photoshop. It meant that when I sat down to work, I could get straight on with the work and not faff about choosing subjects, finding paper and so on. Make it easy to work.
3 – You’ll miss a day. Don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t abandon the project because of it. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make a drawing on every single day, so I allowed enough flexibility in the system for me to be able to get ahead of myself. If I was home and quiet on a Sunday, I might do Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday’s drawings. This meant that on monday and Tuesday evening I could produced the rest of the drawings for the week. It might not be absolutely in the spirit of the thing, but I did get to the end of the year. If you’re reading to your kids for 30 minutes a day, I don’t recommend sitting them down for three and a half hours on Sunday evening, though.
4 – Go public. Let people know you’re doing it. If you’re like me, you’ll feel that somebody, somewhere is waiting to know what you did today. I created a blog and scheduled a drawing to be published each day. To date the blog had has over 20,000 hits (a lot of them are me, I suspect). I also posted an album on Facebook for friends to see.
That’s it really. If I were to offer only one of these tips, it would be the first one. A relatively small commitment of time each day builds up. This blogpost has taken about ten minutes to write and consists of about 600 words. If I did that every day I’d have 219,000 words or so this time next year, which is just a bit longer than Moby Dick. Okay, so it’s quality not quantity that matter in the long run, but quality comes from quantity.
What staggered me is that my technical skills improved hugely over the twelve months. I could tackle much more ambitious and complex images in December than I would have dared try in January.