2019 08 03 18.38.16

Following through to the end, 51 for 51 #40

This summer I completed the 2019 ICAD challenge and created one Index Card A Day each day for the months of June and July. The point of the challenge was to embrace creativity for a few minutes every day using any available means on one 3×5 size index card. These are mine, spread on my kitchen table. This picture and the actual fruits of my “labor” make me so happy. 

Completing this year’s challenge put me in mind of a quote I read a while ago by a Buddhist monk, which said something like this: If you want to become enlightened follow one thing all the way through to the end.

I love this quote. Follow one thing all the way to the end.

It’s so true, isn’t it? 

At its basest level, to me the quote means that some days it’s enough to survive one hour, one minute or even one second. But most days, even tasks we’re looking forward to, like something fun and creative, can become a chore. What to make of that? What to make of continuing through to the finish?

The first 30 days of creating went off without a hitch. I prepared ahead of time by buying a fresh package of note cards and specialty washi-tape. I cleaned my workspace and neatened my supplies. I bookmarked the host’s website to easily find each day’s prompt. I shared the information with sister artists who I thought would enjoy participating as much as I would. I was ready. Eager. 

Then, I painted. I glued. I glittered. I pulled off strips of the aforementioned special washi-tape and affixed them to my projects. I wiped my dirty fingers on my pants, and remembered to enjoy the process. I leafed through magazines, perused my supplies and basked in the simple pleasure of color, pattern and texture. I got out of my head. Unfriended, at least for a while, my hostile brain. I embraced mess, let my hands guide me and made nonsensical art. I allowed myself to just be. Living through our hands does that–allows us to just be. Every day, on Instagram, I shared pictures of my offerings and practiced what I preach about acceptance.

2019 06 14 17.17.03

But one morning, about half way through, I stood in front of my workspace and thought, Ugh. I reviewed my completed cards. Some were super cute, others stupid. Even ugly. My inspiration had fled. I felt lackadaisical. I contemplated skipping that day, figuring I’d get back in the groove the next. That’s when really negative thoughts set in. I criticized myself. It’s 5 minutes of art. You can’t even do that, lazy ass? I forgot about the joy of participation. 

I forgot that what I create in return creates me.  

Old me would have tolerated that forgetting, preferring instead to disappear into an episode of Chicago, PD. New me had a decision to make: Follow this project through to the end or not. I booted up my computer and grabbed a blank note card.

Sometimes, the absolute right decision is setting aside that which can’t or won't, for one reason or another, feed our soul. This day, the absolute right decision was getting back to “work” and acknowledging that the rewards of following this thing through to the end had nothing to do with the finish line. I don't know why human nature turns what's fun into a chore. Why being annoyed or resistant is an unrelenting part of the war of art. Human genetics design flaw, I guess. Or maybe that moment of friction is where the juice resides, where, if we are present to it, the space opens up to make a new choice, a different choice, the choice to be dedicated. 

What I know for sure is that booting up my computer and meeting the challenge for the day helped me meet myself. It made me more, well, me. It's the practice, not the finish, that wakes us up day after day to the life we're meant to live.  

That's my two cents, what's yours? Does following through help you feel more yourself?


  1. For sure! I've pondered this very point today, thinking about how I'm really good at the visioning and big ideas. Yet, the follow through is erratic. You are so right about how great it feels once we push through the resistance and get something done. Cary Tennis once wrote that the more it feels like work, the closer you are to your dream. Achieving a dream takes work…lots of it inspired and energized, and some of it heavy and just blah. Thanks for pushing through. You inspire me.

  2. Dearest Maria..thank you for this comment. I'm still pondering why it is that sticking with it/following through or whatever we want to call it can be so tough and so often. I mean, I get it with stuff that's really hard or scary like big important projects or the hard type of self-care or healthy stuff like quitting alcohol. But when it's fun??!!!??

    I'm no closer to understanding right now why the follow through is hard, but I'm clear on the connection to changing my thought process and feeling around that moment of choice..because it is a choice even when it doesn't feel like it. And though resistance often feels more powerful that my ability to choose, when I change my relationship to the resistance everything else changes along with it, especially my relationship to myself. Thank you!

  3. That's a tough question to answer! But first, let me say how BEAUTIFUL your ICAD pictures are! Love them!

    I've finished projects that, while I didn't have to complete them, I basically hated the process as time went on. And I've quit on projects, too. In my younger years through mid-adulthood I felt that following through on projects was akin to perfection, and perfection was my goal. But in the 2nd half of my life, I have a different take. I no longer strive for perfection as that is an impossible bar to aim for while retaining my self-respect. I look at things now more through a lens of how much joy will this project bring me? Would my time be better spent doing something else? Bottom line, I feel that giving myself permission to let go of a project is empowering. I've learned to trust my gut, too. So if I feel I'm not getting enough out of an experience, I can walk away and not feel like a failure. I'm just taking care of myself.

  4. Oh gosh..thank you Sue! It does make me so happy to look over my completed cards..they bring me joy! And now I'm creating an entire journal using my cards as the focal points. Such fun!

    You bring up an important point..about projects that we hate but finish anyway. I think we can learn as much from those as we do from the projects we love completing. And walking away from some projects is absolutely the right thing to do, for a variety of reasons. Also, your important point about perfection driving the need to finish and the manner in which we work. One reason I participate every year in ICAD is just that..to do more work on letting go of my perfectionistic tendencies. Creativity is an excellent arena for that..because a project rarely – for me anyway – turns out exactly the way I thought it would, lol… That's part of the learning process of finishing.

    In particular this time it really struck me that the moment of resistance can arise even around something fun and, if we recognize when it's happening, what an opportunity it is for us to look at our relationship with ourselves in that one moment. I guess this is a long winded way of saying I recognized that moment for the opportunity it was to change my relationship with being dedicated to the process as opposed to the finished product. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *