Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

Last year, my kid’s school district decided to shift their two-week winter break by a week. Instead of it starting the third week of December and ending just after New Year’s, it now starts as close to Christmas Day as possible and goes through the first week in January.

It is the worst.

I’ve decided my 2019 Year of Making (it’s my sixth YoM, and I’m kind of incapable of even making sense of that) will be dedicated to putting in the time to learn new things. Not just to try out things I’ve never done, but to put in the time to really learn.

Of course, my kid’s stupid winter break has eaten up the first week of the month in a mess of playdates, errands, work, and many children coming in and out of my house.

Alas, my fantasy plan to dive into learning a new skill on January 1st was sacrificed for making whatever it was I was making, without a plan. (Which didn’t totally suck, because what I made was gingerbread cookies with the kid, everything bagels, some knitting, some doodles.)

The first thing I want to spend time learning: Hand lettering. After following along as lovely newsletter reader Kat worked through lettering drills last year, I had signed up for the Show Me Your Drills program, then never did it. But I have all the lessons so I’m all set to go.

Only thing is, the daily exercises are organized by day of the week, starting on a Monday. Obviously, this is hardly something that needs to be stuck to – who cares if I start on a Wednesday and cross out all the days of the week on the exercises? But it did take me a couple of days after New Year’s to make it to the art supply store to get the right kind of paper. And then I was excited about a new knitting project, so…

This is to say, it’s January 6th and I haven’t started my drills yet.

There was a time when I would have tossed my whole plan out the window because of this. I would have thought, “Well, I missed January 1st, and the 2nd and 3rd-6th for that matter, so I should just call it quits now and wait for another right time to start. Maybe February 1st, or maybe New Year’s Day 2020.”

That time, though, has passed. Because waiting is no way to start something, and dates are arbitrary.

I’ve decided I don’t want to rewrite the days of the week on my drills, so I’ll be starting my hand-lettering practice on Monday. Good old January 7th. Twenty-eight days of drills don’t care when they’re done. I do care that I do them at all. So I’m going to do them.

For years, I’ve talked to people who struggle like I do with schedules and time management and failing before we start. I didn’t set out to have a part of my work be a focus on habits and habit formation, but it’s become one of my favourite topics. Probably because when I finally figured out what I needed to do to make a habit for myself, I realized it’s more about what I didn’t need to do, and sharing that with others is deeply satisfying.

Here’s what you don’t need to do to make yourself a creative habit:

  • You do not need to start on January 1st, or the first of any month, or on a Monday or on your birthday. You may start any time.
  • You do not stop if you miss a day. Everybody misses a day. We are human, and a huge part of being human involves unexpected things derailing our well laid plans. Being human is not about keeping every single juggling ball in the air at all times. Being human means letting some non-fatal balls drop when needed, and not throwing those balls away once they’ve touched the floor, but just picking them up and dusting them off and tossing them into the air again.
  • You do not need to follow anyone else’s rules. You are your own emcee at this party. If there are certain constraints that have tripped you up in the past, toss ’em. If you need a different kind of structure than what anyone else has provided you, set yourself the rules you need.
  • You do not require talent, skill, the divine touch of the art gods. Just make stuff, who cares.
  • You do not need to finish what you start if you hate making it. You are free to toss things aside and move on to something else that actually makes you happy.

You deserve to feel happy about what you make. You deserve to let yourself off the hook and not hold yourself to an impossible standard. You deserve to decide that success is most certainly something to strive for, and that success can still be messy, ugly, or profoundly imperfect.

In other words, success should not, under any circumstance, equal perfect. Perfect is dumb, and perfect is uninteresting. Be smart, be interesting. Be rough around the edges, be grateful for the messes you make.

January 1st, 2019, has come and gone. If you started on a Year of Making already, good for you. If you haven’t started yet, who cares. Start today. Start right now.

Get Some Help Committing to a Daily Creative Practice

  • The Daily Making Jumpstart LIVE begins on Tuesday, January 8th, and registration closes on Monday! Join me and a lovely group of fellow adventurers in a two-week workshop to get your habit going. (Spoiler: There will be a lot of messiness, and a lot of perfection-is-dumb, and a lot of fun.) We’ll use Zoom to hang out by video ten times throughout the fourteen-day Jumpstart (and videos will be recorded, because who can manage to attend ten live video sessions?!). We’ll have a private Facebook group for sharing wins and losses and struggles and triumphs (eventually, I will find something other than Facebook that loads of people will love to use, but for now, it’s Facebook).
  • A Year of Making can start any damn day of the year. You missed January 1st. Who cares?! And don’t be alarmed by the idea of committing to 365 days of making. Twist your brain around so you can think of this as one tiny baby step each day, and that’s it. Check out what people are already making, declare your intention in the group and join a supportive community that’ll nudge you on in all the best of ways, and let yourself off the hook when it comes to perfection, rigidity, rules and judgment.

PS This was originally written for my Friday newsletter. Get it here!

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