365: A year-long journey in erasing fear, making mistakes, and creating art.
It is a distinctly great challenge to pick up your camera and shoot every single day for one year. When I decided to begin a 365 project, I had no idea how the journey would stretch me. For most of my life, I had been making art in the constraints of a very tight box. Folded upon myself, I was fearful of everything – mistakes, judgment, taking risks – and riddled with the thought I’d never create something I could believe in. It took the endless, rolling days of the 365 to crack me wide open.
In the first month of the project I photographed with my eyes closed, hands clamped tightly around my heart. I shot cautiously, edited tightly, and posted tentatively (to a private Flickr page, that barely anyone followed). I was doing the project for no one but myself, and somehow, still cowered at my own shadow. I couldn’t let go. Slowly, the rhythm of the days held me accountable. I’d blink my eyes and the sun was either rising or setting to another day. There wasn’t a moment to redo, rethink, or repost. There was no chance to get it “just right”. I simply had to get up, live and document the next day. This creative untidiness shook me to the core. My 365 was like a stream rambling without mercy. Often I was in tears at the end of the night, wanting another chance. JUST POST I had to tell myself; tomorrow is a new day. It was a great lesson for my artist’s soul.
If I didn’t pledge myself to the 365, I can assure you, I would have deleted half my photos from the year. Especially the ones that felt wholeheartedly like mistakes. But the project made me digest, slowly, that I couldn’t make magic everyday. No one could. The poor shots, inadequate exposures, missed moments, gave me places to grow. The mistakes were like a million tiny seeds – beautiful, ripe imperfections. They unraveled me and I started letting go. I opened my eyes, while letting my heart take the photos. The project became a constantly evolving journal of the artist I COULD be if I embraced the very things I was not. I saw for the first time truth in my imagery.
It’s been five months without the rhythm of my 365, and I miss it so much. I miss the way it helped me capture the small nuances of our world and face my creative self anew each day. If you are considering taking on a 365, I believe the things you’ll need most are patience, perseverance, and an open heart. There are simply no right or wrongs to this project. The only thing you’ll regret if you start — is stopping. Here are a few other important lessons I found crucial to surviving the year:
- SHARING: Do NOT obligate yourself to post and share each and every photo of your 365 project publicly on your website or any other social platform. DO hold yourself accountable with a private or semiprivate Flickr stream, tumblr, or a private page on your website. A little cocoon around your artist self can go a long way. And this creative project is about growth. So share your favorites when you are moved to, but remember this is your own personal journey. Build the confidence from within, and your own creative voice will become strong.
- SUPPORT: Find a friend or two to do this project with, start to finish. Even just one friend will provide encouragement, consistent constructive feedback, and momentum when you need it most. For you WILL hit a wall. Many times. It is impossible to not fall on a journey of this length. You will need someone who understands, and knows how to help you get back up and shooting again.
- FORGIVE: Be kind to yourself. Don’t give up because you had to skip a day. Post two photos the next. Take risks without beating yourself up. Embrace the mistakes. Underexpose, overexpose. Shoot late at night, early in the morning, in poor light. Take photos of your children laughing, crying, fighting. Take photos of yourself. Take the messes along with the moments that feel “just right”. You will not be disappointed. They will add up to a pile of wild, unruly beauty. In the end you’ll have a living cross-section of this all too fleeting slice of your life. And most importantly, a reflection of YOU at this moment in your journey as an artist. You will be grateful to have it.