A Blank a Day
What do you do every day? Brush your teeth, put on your shoes, make your coffee. What else do you do every day? Can you fit in one more task? Will that task change your life? The [blank]-a-day format is a popular one for creative sorts, as we strive to incorporate art and creative practice into our daily lives. Adding one more thing to the to-do list may feel daunting, but what if that task was one in creativity? Today, I’m going to discuss some of the benefits of and ways to incorporate a daily creative process, as well as share a series of “blank a day” daily creative projects.
Creating a new daily habit requires discipline. It’s important to note here that adding a creative activity to your day is, in fact, creating a habit. Human beings are creatures of habit. How frequently do you rely on a routine to get through the morning and get out the door, dressed, with coffee, on the way to work on time? If you had to stop to consider every step of your morning, if it weren’t simply mindless routine, you’d never get there on time. Adding a new activity to create a new habit may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be time consuming.
The mere act of adding a new habit creates (and requires) a sense of discipline. Our brains are exceptionally malleable. By changing a habit, we move ourselves out of the comfort zone and into the ‘stress’ zone of our brains. Stress sounds negative and, well, it often is! Stress is not comfortable. But not all things that are comfortable are healthy, either; one can’t live on diet of mac-and-cheese and Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies alone (even though I sure wouldn’t mind trying). It takes pressure to create diamonds. Creating art every day takes your brain out of its usual comfort zone and transports you to ‘where the magic happens.’
That magic is your creativity that lives in the unknown. When was the last time something truly exciting and life-changing happened while you were making coffee on auto-pilot in your kitchen? Less likely than when you picked up and flew to a new city, got up an hour earlier to see the sunrise from a park, or went for an evening walk down a street in your neighborhood that you never go down. Even changing your route to work can be enough to change your outlook on the day. Our brains create routines incredibly easily and we develop a sense of discipline by establishing and maintaining new habits. The New York Times discusses what happens when we try to create new habits: Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?.
By creating a new habit, not only are you developing discipline, you are reaching a goal; this is creative and mental weightlifting! Want to know something else? This discipline will translate to other skills and activities throughout the day. Achieving an independent goal will give you the confidence to tackle more challenging tasks over the course of your day, which will give you more confidence to tackle even bigger tasks. You see where this is going.
Keep your time frame realistic. Many artists choose to try a new project daily for a year. Needless to say, life is very full and a year is a long time. Choose a time frame that feels right to you. Is a year too long? Aim for a month, or a week. This is your project; give yourself a time frame that feels achievable, not so daunting that you won’t even try. Things are going to happen and days will go by in which you did not take a single photo or draw a single line. That’s okay. You’re human. Start again the very next day; whatever you do, don’t just give up because you “failed.” You haven’t failed! Just start again.
Do it without expectation and without judgment. This is important. Too frequently, we combine our internal editor with our internal creator. How often do you internally edit before you’ve even put a mark on the page? How often have you stared at a blank sheet of paper, a blank file, a blank canvas, afraid to make the first mark? Of course, as soon as you’ve made a mark, you can make more marks to fix anything that needs fixing and “once begun is half done,” as Mary Poppins put it.
Do it for yourself. This is more about the process, about doing it every day, about consistently producing something. Don’t feel obligated to post the results of a daily art project on Facebook. That said, some people choose to share their creative journeys with the world and being held accountable by their Internet audience. Feeling stuck for some ideas? Check out what some other people have done!
Some people choose to adhere to a theme. In Noah Scalin’s case, the theme is skulls. His blog is aptly called a Skull a Day. Using different materials and different designs, Scalin creates a skull, well… every day! Similarly, Stefan G Bucher flexes his illustration skills to create a daily monster. Check out his creations here!
Still stuck for an idea? Sometimes, you need look no further than yourself. Here, Julia Kay creates daily self portraits. There is something convenient (as well as limiting, of course) about using yourself as your own model. Megan Labonte also explores self-portraiture.
Speaking of limitations, a theme can help you get started, but can be too limiting. Assigning a physical size can be a great way to jump-start your creativity without putting limits on the content. Jessica Hische designs a daily drop cap and makes the most of a tiny space. Check out her work here.
Stuck for ideas or themes? The answer is sometimes right in front of your nose. Laura Cibilich’s design structure literally changes with the date. She creates designs of each day’s date.
Give it a try! Create something and keep doing it; you never know where a little bit of daily creativity will lead. If you have ideas to get started or a tip to stay motivated, please share them in the comments!
Clara LaFrance is a freelance graphic designer with an M.F.A. in graphic design from Boston University. She is currently a Course Producer at Sessions College, maintaining and updating online courses, as well as a freelance designer and circus teacher and performer.
Clara LaFrance is a freelance graphic designer when she is not pursuing her dreams as a circus teacher and performer. Clara has an M.F.A. in graphic design from Boston University.