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When Things Don’t Work

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

The 100 Day Project

Week: Two-ish

I think it has something to do with Murphy’s Law. I’m not going to take the time to Google who Murphy was but he must have been one frustrated person. It seems that anytime one embarks on a new endeavor, there are destined to be struggles and failures. In the case of this project, the failure was my electricity. Thanks to a massive winter storm and a whole lot of politics that I don’t feel the least bit knowledgeable about, the temperatures inside my house dropped into the 30s and 40s last week. Suddenly, I found myself at the very bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, struggling to stay safe, warm and fed. All of my carefully curated new habits fell to the wayside. It seemed like a wonderful extravagance to be able to draw in a sketchbook, especially because I didn’t dare remove my winter gloves.

This is drawing 16/100 of The 100 Day Project, completed after 7 days of significant setbacks.

The one emotion that I noticed when I thought about The 100 Day Project during the peak of my troubles, was the feeling of failure. It seemed for sure that because I couldn’t figure out a way to persevere during hard times, that I was failing. Some people might be able to abandon an effort quickly and with little regard, but for me it was a little devastating. That’s just not a helpful way to think. If we go back to Maslow’s pyramid for a minute, we can see that the basic needs have to be met before any progress can be made. And that brought me to some pretty profound realizations about why habits fail. Here are some of those thoughts.

Reasons why a new endeavor might fail:

The basic foundations necessary for success are not in place.

After about the 6th inch of snow fell, it became obvious that my new habit of creating a drawing from life everyday would be challenging. My habit depends on finding fresh botanical subjects to draw. The only subjects I could find were dead leaves that had blown into the garage. And then the power failed. There was no light for drawing. Soon, temperatures dropped precariously low (like -2 degrees Fahrenheit). My hands were so cold that the project became impossible. Any new project will have basic foundations that must be met in order to succeed. When these foundations crumble, it’s time to put the project on hold and make repairs.

It’s not the right time.

Choosing to draw nature from life in the dead of winter doesn’t really seem to be the best choice. Of all the times of the year, winter is the most difficult time to find beauty in nature. I thought this would be just a nice constraint that would stretch my creativity. You know, cause me to look for the beauty in fallen seed pods. It’s actually added a level of difficulty that hinders progress. If you’re starting a new project, carefully weigh your timing. It might be a brilliant idea sitting in a perfectly wrong context. New endeavors are difficult enough without adding in unnecessary challenges.

It’s not failure, just a delay.

Sometimes, we set our expectations so high that small setbacks feel like total failures. Each day that passed without a new drawing in my sketchbook increased my feeling of failure. It seemed like I would never be able to get back on track. I had to eventually put the project out of my mind and deal with the present situation. When the weather cleared and the electricity returned, it still took a day or two for me to get my mind in the right place to continue. And then the delay lifted. I bought a small bouquet of tulips and relished the opportunity to draw again. I’m seven days behind others involved in the project. That’s okay.

As the month of February begins to wind down, I’m looking forward to warmer temperatures and outdoor drawing time. I’m currently on the 17th of 100 drawings of nature. I hope you will follow the process and explore the many 100 Days Projects on Instagram. Just search the hashtags: #100jengillenart and #the100dayproject to follow along.

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