“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
― Steven Pressfield,
You know the feeling— some future event sounds like a great idea when it’s still weeks or even months away and then as the same great-idea event approaches on the calendar, you wonder what dark force had possessed you in your previous moment of enthusiasm.
There is safety in distance. When tasks or challenges are still well into a nebulous future, we have only to rejoice in the satisfaction they might bring– our own future and potential success– and not the reality of wading through the muckier aspects of ritual and devotion.
Welcome the January 31 in 31.
Last October I completed 31 paintings in 31 days in a somewhat show-offy one-upping of my many various months of 30 in 30. Several people joined me— poets, and adult coloring book colorers, rosary prayers, and, of course, painters. There weren’t any rules, just a commitment to take on some meaningful practice and make it a ritual— do it every day for 31 days, and share any aspect of it on our group Facebook page.
It was both a simple and profound practice. Simple in concept, profound in the tenacity required to follow through on such a seemingly simple task.
Not everyone had something to show for every thirty-one days. Some, at the end of the month, had just twenty days accounted for. Twenty more, I believe, than they would have without the challenge.
So when I asked the group which 31 day month they’d like to take on next, the consensus was January, which, foolish children that we were back in October, still felt like a good ways off. But you and I both know it’s not. It’s practically here. It’s a month ripe with optimism— weight to be lost, cities to visit, and, if you’re like I was in my early twenties, languages to learn (I never so much as purchased the Rosetta Stone I’d had big plans for).
I’ve learned that the best way to give meaning to the new year is to do, devotedly, that little nagging thing you want to do but allow life to talk you out of— poetry, yoga, painting, walking, writing, dancing, singing. If you read this and something comes to mind, I think you should press pause on the inner voices that are sure to follow— you don’t have time, you’re not sure your “thing” is really what I’m talking about, you haven’t really prepared. Press pause and replace those voices with “I’ll do my best”.
I’ll admit I’m a little more wary about this challenge than any of the others I’ve done (even the 100 in 100!). It just feels, well, so soon. I’m not sure what kind of paintings I want to make, if they will be big or small, if I’ll try to explore a new subject matter or just stick to my little birdies. I just know that I’m in. Let me know if you are by leaving me a message in the comments. I’ll add you to the group. You’re going to like it.