Lessons from 100 Days of Scrapbasket Improv

Quilt blocks made for the 100 Days Project

Last Spring, on a sunny day that almost tempted me into premature short sleeves, I pulled out my basket of scraps and began to play.  I think there must be something in the rhythm of unfurling springtime that entices me to follow the path of curiosity.  Without noting the connection, on the same day this year, I was back at that scrap basket, heeding that same call of what if.

Earlier this month creatives around the world began the 100 Days Project:  an invitation to participate in a creative challenge for 100 consecutive days.  Last year I was among their ranks.  For 100 days I created am improved piece from my scrap basket.  It was equal parts thrilling, tedious, and enlightening.

I chose not to participate this year because I want to direct my meager creative time in different directions.  But, the same pull has shown up, right on cue.  So, I spent an afternoon exploring with my scraps.  Getting in there again reminded me of all that I learned from 100 days of Scrap Basket Improvs.  I thought I’d share a few of my takeaways from having participated in the 100 Days Project start to finish.

The 100 Days Project taught me the value of showing up.

Commitment to showing up will always be rewarded.  It may not be rewarded in the way I would hope.  Or, in the way I demand.  But, something will come of it.  Maybe it doesn’t move mountains.  But, in the repeated act of coming to the table every single day, some little piece of me breaks apart.  Something is dislodged in my soul and allowed to drift a bit.

The 100 Days Project gave my creativity a direction for a period of time.

Making something every day is a great idea.  But, it is a horrible plan.  I am an awful decider.  The pressure of deciding what to make every day is overwhelming for me.  It threatens to immerse any nascent creativity I’m nurturing.  A long term project is the opposite of a decision conundrum.  Even if I only have a few minutes to give to creativity, I know how to spend them.  Even when the day feels full, I carve out a few minutes for this thing that I’ve already committed to.

The 100 Days Project taught me how to ask good questions. 

I didn’t realize how many of my ideas are actually questions.

What would happen if I cut here?
 How would these two colors look together?
 How can I sew these two pieces together so they lay flat?
 What shapes can I form with these scraps of fabric?
 Which color combinations, construction techniques and shapes make me excited?

Setting aside time every day simply for the purpose of exploring questions turned me into a better questioner.

The 100 Days Project taught me the value of constraints.

Every project has constraints.  I only have so long to work on a project.  I only have so many resources to employ.  I only have so much expertise I bring.  I will always be operating from within my own perspective.  There are a million constraints, seen and unseen, inherent in every project.  It was helpful to learn how to employ them.  In my project I played around with which scraps I chose, which tools I used, and what types of shapes I worked with.  Making an explicit choice about some of my constraints each day taught me that constraints make great building blocks for creativity.

The 100 Days Project gave me a place to experiment and to play.

Each piece I created was small.  The stakes never felt very high on any one day.  The pieces piled up, day after day, without any pressure of greatness.  The process sometimes felt boring, but it never felt overbearing.  It felt light.  Inside the project, it was easy to experiment. 

It was a daily invitation to play.