One of the great gifts an intensive, daily project can impart to your creative life is momentum.
As we are now at the two-thirds point of International Fake Journal Month, with only 10 days remaining (if you haven't created your entry for today), it's time to think about post-project momentum.
During the next few days take time to select a new journal for your regular journaling habit (if you don't have one that is in process). Or select a new journal to create a new project within.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. What has worked this month so far, and what hasn't worked? When have I been most likely to work on the project? What factors contribute to this?
Perhaps you've found that late evening work is easiest to maintain because that's when your family duties are completed. Or perhaps you've found that working in your journal first thing is the best way to start your day and ensure your participation in the project.
2. Look at your commitments for May. It may help you to mark them on a calendar: family, work projects and deadlines, special events that you'll hope to attend, etc.
With your calendar in front of you work out a strategy for maintaining your desired level of journaling time and write those commitments on your calendar if necessary. (It helps some people to make "dates" or "appointments" with their journals.)
3. Ask yourself what media you would like to work with in May. Do you want to perfect your colored pencil skills? Are your watercolors calling to you because you couldn't use them this month?
4. Is there a project you want to do with that medium? Perhaps you want to work on your watercolor skills and have a favorite "how-to" watercolor book that you want to work through. Set up a simple project where you read a chapter of the book each day and do an exercise or some sort of practice based on that book each day. Keep your subject matter simple and accessible. I recommend studies of fruits and vegetables. You always have them on hand; they can be set up quickly; they contain simple shapes that can be interestingly lit and composed; and you can apply most drawing, painting and color theory exercises to them. Do you think it will be boring to draw a couple fruits or vegetables every day for the next several weeks? Well it's up to your creative instincts and insights to find ways to delve into the subject and capture your own interest, while you work on your skills project.
5. Assess the amount of time the project you want to do in items 3 and 4 might take. I recommend that if you've been working for 30 minutes each day of IFJM that you not increase your daily time beyond 60 minutes a day.
6. How will this new time commitment fit into the calendar that you have prepared in item 2?
7. Ask yourself what types of emotional issues came up during IFJM. How do you expect to deal with them? Are you able to deal with them in conjunction with the project you've considered going on to? If not, is it more important to deal with those emotional issues before you jump into a skills-based project? If it is, then make a list of the issues that came up and make a schedule of how "ideally" you would like to cope with them—writing about an issue for one hour for two days is probably as much as you'll feel up to. Maybe just one hour on one day.
Realize you aren't going to solve these issues you're just going to sit with them for the time that you're assigning.
8. Redo your calendar to fit your "issues" project. Let's say you have 9 issues on your list—things like my inner critic is too loud when I work in color, when I try to draw realistically, etc. Assign one or two days to each "issue" when you'll spend 1 hour writing about and brainstorming ways you might fix it.
9. Mark your calendar May 1 through 12 let's say because you have 9 issues and you want to write 1 hour on some of them and 2 hours/2 days on others.
10. Mark May 12 as the start of your new project. This will either be your skills based project you decided upon in items 3 and 4, OR it will be an new project that has come up in your May 1 through 12 discussions with yourself.
11. Gather all the materials you need so that you can execute your plan on May 1. Gather any additional items needed for May 12. (You might as well combine as much of this as you can to save time, if it seems clear to you.)
Remember, gathering materials DOESN'T MEAN SPENDING MONEY! Gathering materials means you go to the library and pick up that book on color theory you wanted to work through, or it means that you pull out the paper you've been saving for a project, or you do research on the internet for subject matter that you want to read and respond to in your writing. (Put it all in one folder on your computer so you can find it all again, or put all the links in one document.) You might simply go through old magazines and gather materials for collage. Put things in 6 folders such as Women, Men, Animals, Things, Words, and Color. These will contain the materials you'll work with during your project—materials you already had. If you start gathering things before you are ready to start your project then you'll be able to jump right in on that project the first day—momentum retained!
Spending money and running about buying more art supplies is one of the major ways in which your inner critic can derail your efforts. Don't buy into the thoughts that there are perfect supplies out there, or the perfect time to use certain supplies. This is all a fog of perfectionism and scarcity.
Now if you've been paying attention you'll say, "wait a minute I'm actually doing several things on several days and I don't get a day off."
That's right—you'll be multitasking, which is one of the key ways to keep momentum going.
When you finish a large project it's not time to take a breath and stop. It's time to start another one. And keep that momentum going. Use the great gush of good feeling you have from finishing the previous project to propel you into the next.
A week or so into the new project it's time to take stock.
And you'll do that in the same way that you took stock at the end of IFJM—by looking at what worked and what didn't and planning, and well, by starting at number one on this list and working your way through again.
Keep it going, it's the best creative gift you can give yourself. Don't fritter away the creative habit building you've banked this past month.
You won't get tired or exhausted because your creativity will buoy you up. Your internal critic will however get pretty fed up with you because you aren't giving him a moment to shout out at you.
Fine, let him go play with someone else.
You've got creative things to do.
Another word about Issues…I think we all need to do self-evaluations and look hard at what are our real strengths and weaknesses so that we can address them in a realistic way and improve. But I also believe we can wallow in emotions that are self-indulgent and non-productive.
That's why I always suggest people look for skills-based projects. What do you want to learn how to do or to improve upon your existing skills? If you look for projects like those and work hard at them the emotional issues you are concerned with will float up to the top and demand periodic attention in the natural course of things. Don't spend too much time running in circles, that's your inner critic trying to delay you again, telling you it's impossible to move forward if "everything isn't settled and right."
Nothing is ever going to be settled until the day you die. Somedays you'll settle an issue that may have bothered you from the age of 2; the next day you settle an issue that has bothered you since you were 35. Then you just "plod" along working and learning and mastering a skill and not setting any issues or any emotional import at all, until one day, perhaps a month later you realize that while you've been working hard at your creative task and plan another issue has sorted itself out on its own.
If you'd waited to start a creative project until you sorted everything out you've be poorer—both emotionally and in the skills you'd developed. Instead you're now in a totally different place with creative work under your belt—creative work that's getting better and better.
So don't wallow. It's so boring.