A bunch of us are starting 2015 with a 31 Day Creativity Challenge—a commitment to make something every day for 31 days. The challenge is all about establishing a habit, getting into a groove. Implicit in the challenge is the notion that it’s worth putting aside high quality and refinement for the sake of “just doing it” every day for a month. What would 2015 be like if we started by consistently showing up and making something, then publishing it for all to see?

Piano Man

The challenge I accepted was to write an original piano composition based on each of the 31 Proverbs in the Bible. It’s been a long time since I wrote anything, so I heard a flood of voices as soon as I went public with this commitment. Here are just a few of them.

  • “Ha! When was the last time you wrote music? Maybe you aren’t really a musician after all.”
  • “You will probably do this for a few days and then stop. You rarely finish creative projects.”
  • “You will be fine for the first week, but then you’re going to run out of material. Then what will you do?”

I decided to let those voices say their piece, and then I started the pre-writing process. That’s the biggest difference between getting into the flow and getting stuck. The saboteur voices are much the same, the action is what matters.

Starting Blocks

I have the advantage of living with 5 other creatives who are participating in the challenge. This is a creativity coach’s candy shop. Here’s the first observation: The creativity started before the challenge began. In late December the kids jumped into pre-work.

  • TJ is writing Star Wars fan fiction. He spent several days filling up pages in his journal—character sketches, theme development, and details about the setting. By day 1 he already had a lot of useful material that made writing easy.
  • Benjamin wanted to spend his creative energies on designing the elements of an urban plan (an entire city using Sketchup). He spent a few days mapping out the entire city boundaries, putting in the streets and establishing the geography so he could start with his first element in January.
  • Spencer did a practice sketch to get the juices flowing. The practice not only allowed him to make decisions about his subject matter and space, it also afforded a practice going through the workflow of getting the photo of his work online.
  • I simply setup the camera & microphone the night before so it was ready for recording in the morning. No major effort, but it made a big difference in the morning when I could just sit down and get started.

Here’s the lesson: you can be more creative tomorrow if you spend a few moments today creating the space, getting the materials out, paving the path. It’s all about honoring the space and respecting your process.

Let It Go

The thing about a daily practice is just how regularly it comes up again. It’s one thing to block out all distractions, pour yourself into your creative work, and make something great. It’s another to make room for the entire creative process every day. The only way to make this happen in the context of a busy life is to let a bunch of other stuff go.

For me, saying “yes” to a creative project meant saying “no” to such things as:

  • Perfection: I couldn’t refine everything until it was perfect. I had to just create and let the draft be a draft.
  • Environment: In a perfect world I would wait until the house was quiet and everyone was out of the house before I started recording. I realized this would rarely, if ever, happen. So I just let that go. And sure enough, right in the middle of my performance in walks my 5-year-old daughter who asks, “Daddy, why are you doing that?”
  • Reading: Usually I spend time reading the Bible each day. I realized that the only way I had time to do this would be to make Proverbs my reading for the month.

So many more lessons to come from this, I’m sure. But for now, I started. And that’s the hardest part. Now I can’t wait to see what happens next. You can follow along at:

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