In hindsight, I’ve done challenges prior to last year’s daily blogging and photography. I did a daily challenge when I was seriously into my needlepoint. I improved my skill, learned new techniques, and made new friends just like with my blogging.
I also did a daily challenge putting together a family history book, coordinating and organizing 100 years of family photos and stories. I had numerous false starts doing it. It wasn’t totally finished before giving it as a Christmas gift to my sister, but I was satisfied that I’d done a good job in the 90 days that I worked on it. I was proud of the end result, imperfect as it was.
So why do a daily challenge? Life is so busy as it is, let alone taking on a daily commitment to something especially when it’s for our personal life.
One of the ironies of a daily challenge is that the more you do something, the more creative you become. You don’t run out of ideas, in fact ideas often flow faster and easier. Daily practice makes accomplishment easier, not harder.
I’d first noticed this years ago when my husband was in art school. He was in school for 8 hours every day and had hours of homework each night. The school was clear that he would be creative on demand and if he couldn’t, he would wash out. There was no la-di-da waiting on the muse to show up. There was also a minimum of alcohol and drugs at the school, as fuzzy brains tended to flunk out under the pressure and workload.
Before I started keeping my journals, I wrote daily letters to my sister. Surprisingly, it was easier writing short letters each day than doing it weekly or monthly. I had more to say daily than I expected.
A challenge will at some point be hard. There’s the time commitment, the frustration of the learning curve, and the many failures that lurk everywhere when doing something frequently.
Whether you’re contemplating a challenge or are doing one already, it’s useful to write down your intentions and refer to them when you wonder just what you’re doing with a challenge. Some ideas are:
- For enjoyment and relaxation
- As a creative outlet
- Improvement of skill and technique
- Development of a body of work
- Acquiring a new hobby
- Trying something different
- Exploring a potential future change in life
Whatever your initial intentions, it is likely they will change as you settle into the challenge. Trying a new recipe each week for the school year is a great way to introduce variety into your family meals. But what if you decide you want to try cuisines from around the world, go to cooking school for better kitchen skills, or buy some additional tools? The challenge has now morphed into a more complex and satisfying goal and your written intentions should reflect that.
I did my needlepoint challenge as I explored whether I’d want to own my own needlepoint shop. I tried new techniques, signed up for a master teaching program, attended a conference, and networked with women who were in the needlepoint business. After a year of trying it, I realized:
- The level of perfection required was beyond what I wanted to do.
- To stand out, I’d have to do some incredibly complex projects that required hours bent over my frame, using magnifying goggles to see. I wasn’t interested in that either.
- Virtually no one in the business made money at it; most were supported by a spouse and did not have to work a job of their own. Since I was sole support of my family, that was not an option for me.
- The materials and finishing of my work required a considerable amount of cash. As a casual hobby, I could afford it here and there. As a master teacher, I couldn’t justify the extensive budget needs from our household.
At that point, I called a halt to the challenge. I dropped out of the master teacher program, and returned to a casual hobbyist. I have a lot of pretty little pieces from that time and quite a stash of threads and canvases. I was happy I tried it, but it was not for me.
Write out for yourself why you are doing a challenge. You can change it as you go and discover other or better reasons for it. But writing it out will help you focus and prioritize, and remind you why you started this when the going gets tough. If you decide that this isn’t what you wanted, having written it out will help you identify whether it is truly time to quit or whether the reasons are still valid.
A later post will explore how to keep yourself encouraged when you want to quit.