Instagram + The 100 Day Project

I joined Instagram not too long ago in an attempt to diversify my social media diet. Other sites were becoming a bit too fraught for me, and I found myself being sucked in to a negative vortex when I visited them. I had heard good things about the positivity of the creative community on Instagram. As a visual person, the idea of filling my brain space with pretty pictures was appealing.

I’m a total Instagram newbie, and it was like being exposed to a whole new culture. How do hashtags work? What’s the following etiquette? How do I even find people to follow, or get people to follow me? Is it weird to comment on strangers’ posts? I had had a private Instagram account before in order to share images with my family and friends, but this was an entirely new thing.

I like to think I picked up the basics pretty quickly. Perhaps I’m showing my not-quite-young-enough-to-be-millennial age here, but one thing that I found endlessly confusing before joining Instagram was hashtags. I’m still not the most adept hashtagger out there, but I’ve managed to find a few that I consistently like. One of the things I think it is the coolest is the way hashtags can be used to create ad hoc community groups, contests, and collective projects. I had no idea that this is how they worked! The 100 Day Project is one such collective project (following? movement?) that I was excited to discover through hashtags.

The 100 Day Project with Elle Luna:

The 100 Day Project was first started way back pre-Instagram by a Yale art professor to get his students thinking about their own creativity and creative processes. After several years of running it as a graduate course, a group of his students banded together and posted their projects on Instagram, and it has since grown into the huge project it is today. The idea is simple: pick a creative action that you will do every day for 100 days. It needs to be something you can be consistent with, so it forces people to evaluate how much of their time they are reasonably able to commit. Inevitably, it will become something that stretches people creatively, as you’re forced to come up with something relatively novel each day, even when you don’t feel like it.

Doing the same thing day after day for 100 days becomes tedious, no matter what thing you’re doing. If you persist past the tedium, you begin to see what you’re doing in a different light. It can be freeing– who cares if one iteration is crap, you’ll make another one tomorrow! But there’s also pressure to keep going, to keep creating, to not break your chain. It’s just the right amount of balance (for me at least) between that freedom and pressure.

For my project, I opted for super-simple and open-ended. I decided to create 1- 4″ x 6″ postcard each day. I can use any medium, and can mix it up at will. I just have to do *something* on the card.

I’ve wanted to develop a sketchbook practice for a while now, but have had trouble getting started. I think part of the issue is that I’m intimidated by my lovely leatherette-bound, mixed media paper-filled, $20-sketchbook, and am afraid that I’ll somehow mess it up. Incidentally, this is also part of the reason why I have a collection of still-blank lined journals sitting around.

My postcards are an unbound sketchbook. A pack of 100 cost me $2 at the craft store, and they’re really nothing special. I can feel free to experiment on them, to be lazy and just mush stuff around on them, or to be a little crazy and glue plastic gems to them. If I mess up, hey, no big deal. I’m out 2 cents and get to try again tomorrow. And yes, I still post the “mess-ups” to Instagram, because my project is all about the process over the ultimate product.

That is the hardest thing for my perfectionist brain to wrap around: it’s about the process, not the product. Heck, the process IS the product. There have been several instances where I’ve been tempted to skip posting, mostly out of embarrassment at my fledgling skills in a particular medium, or because it’s not exactly what I pictured when I started, or from fear that people will be disgusted and unfollow me, or because I’m worried about violating some unspoken rule about never posting first drafts (all of my postcards are the one and only draft!). But as it happens, there are plenty of people out there interested in sharing the messiness of the creative process.

For me, being able to acknowledge and embrace just how messy that process can be is the only way to move from planning to actually doing any of my projects.

It has been exciting to dive in and see how other people are progressing with their own interpretations of the 100 Day Project. As we approach the half-way mark, I’m really proud that I’ve stuck with it this long. I’m especially looking forward to finding ways to keep the momentum going after the project officially “finishes” on July 12.

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