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.
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?