How the #100DaysProject helped smash my inner critic

Madison-based artist and member Sara Meredith of Smere Tactics recently completed an intensive daily art project as part of the 100 Days Project where she committed to doing a specific creative act for 100 consecutive days and joined the #100DayProject story. Check out this piece to learn more about her motivation and results from taking on this challenge.

By Sara Meredith

When I began the 100 Day project, I didn’t know how I’d feel, how I’d change or what to expect. I named my project “100 Days of Controlled Chaos” and my goal was to create 4” x 4” paintings along with a time lapse video everyday.

Controlled chaos affectionately refers to a painting process I use in which the outcome isn’t predetermined. It goes like this: I play around with texture, line and sometimes pattern, which I guess you could say is a mess. Then I take a few minutes and see whatever imagery or subject matter I see in the mess and bring that to life. It can be hard for me to share my process by words alone so I wanted to use The 100 Days project to share it visually and let people come to their own understanding.

I also wanted to do this project because after some huge setbacks and failures, I wanted get back to the basics and practice creativity freely without the voice of the inner critic. By committing to making art for 100 days I wanted to make a habit out of silencing that inner critic.

I recently listened to a Being Boss podcast called “Vulnerability as a Creative with Brene Brown.” Those of you that have read Brene know her amazingness but this particular talk gave me more perspective about the role this project played in moving my creative life forward. To Brene, it’s important to show up and be who you are with your audience. In other words, “ tell me the truth so I can find my truth in your words.”

That was my aha moment. Sharing MY process and allowing space for people to take their own meaning was me showing up and being completely honest and vulnerable about what my creativity looks like and that this truth, expressed in 100 different ways, was valuable and meaningful to helping others feel, see and express their creativity.

A little later Brene talks about how perfectionism is a “what will people think mechanism” to avoid or minimize shame and pain. I have often thought of perfectionism as the enemy of creativity so it really hit home when she declared that “ perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor” and that striving for perfection prevents people from really showing up. I realized my need to silence the inner critic comes from comparing myself to so many other artists and entrepreneurs that are showing what I see as amazingly perfect work.

This project became about creating for myself,
without comparison and without ego.
Which was way easier said than done.

Pretty early on in the project I remember Day 9 was one of the times the piece I made was dark and after sharing it I felt upset that I shared this piece and my feelings about it and there was no response or interaction. As I continued expressing my creativity daily, it became easier for me to be vulnerable about what I was feeling on a particular day without feeling like I was getting too personal. Looking back at those feelings about Day 9 now it seems a bit absurd that I was upset about people not interacting. I had made the mistake Brene highlights of sharing because my “healing (was) dependent on feedback.”

After having reflected on this project for a little bit, this whole 100 days project was part of a personal journey, the part that Brene refers to as the “Messy Second Act”. You can’t skip this part because you need to learn all those lessons to move forward.

Making time to practice loose, unscripted creative acts
is taking a break from the ego and the mind
that wants to keep us from getting through the messy middle
of the journey to what we are striving for.

My favorite quote from Brene is about this process is “Creativity is straddling the tension, leaning into discomfort and finding your way through the dark.”

It’s important to carve out 15-30 minutes at least a couple times a week if not every day to spend creatively without limits or a specific outcome in mind. I did exactly that for 100 days, every single day –  a practice I will continue because it helped me open up to more possibilities, opportunities and ideas that I would not have received otherwise. It was an investment in myself and my work – worth every sometimes challenging, consuming and illuminating minute.

Sarah Artz