A story in everything

When the world is even more shit than usual, make, make, make.

“He said I should plant my tree and let it rise out of the fury.” Words by Atmosphere. Storyline from last week.

Almost three months ago, I joined in on the #100dayproject hullabaloo.

The project is described as:

…a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products — it’s about the process.

You decide what you want to make, follow through every day, and share publicly via Instagram with the #100dayproject and #100daysofYourProjectName hashtags. That’s it.

I loved the idea, and even more the wide-spread communal engagement. However, I joined last minute and had less than a day to figure out what I would want to do daily for 100 days.

I wanted the exercise to:

  1. Inspire me every day.
  2. Give a lot back relative to what I put in.
  3. Be evocative and engaging beyond the visual.

Finally, I decided to draw what I’ve been calling storylines.

They’re stream-of-consciousness doodles, where I create simple line drawings and then title them based on an image or scene they evoke.

Here’s the first one I did. Before you scroll down to see the caption: what does it make you think of?

Hills.

Here are a few more:

Escaped noodle, Surprised guests, Downtown

Each of these took fewer than 30 seconds to draw. Most have been taking fewer than 2.

All of them give me great joy every time I look at them.

Because of their simplicity, they lend well to extension and translation. Here are storylines 25 through 50, superimposed over each other. There’s a strange and unexpected harmony there, and I love the sense this construction—a summary of sorts, a map of my subconscious, a whole larger than its parts—makes to me:

Composite of storylines 25 through 50

I’ve been enjoying #100DaysofStorylines in many such reincarnations, on and off the screen. Here they are as ceramic coasters:

Coastermatics

The best part about this has been the process of discovery and engagement of imagination. Also, escape.

Giving a title to each doodle felt like responding to a lighthearted Rorschach. Some drawings and their titles felt literal:

Drowsy kitty with lazy tail

Others listed toward the solemn and were likely inspired by recent events or current affairs. I can see a picture of my life and the world it’s in, through the canvas of these lines:

“Arrow set to fly (and it has)” after Brexit, and “Soldier leans out of window as train departs” on Veteran’s Day.

Others were more abstract and figurative:

The fall of an empire

Some straight up made me laugh out loud:

“Dracula,” and “Acorn where did I put it”

The ones with multiple stories in them have multiple titles:

“Wind, or Chewbacca;” “Yawn, or Labyrinth;” “J’accuse, or Je suis d’accord”

One of the more elaborate ones:

Scarf flung over shoulder in October

When I look at a doodle, a scene begins to spark into frame. With “Scarf flung over shoulder in October,” for instance, I wonder who the woman is. Then the story begins to reveal itself, a snapshot in a narrative and life somewhere:

Afterward, she puts her hands straightaway into coat pockets and lowers her head. It’s a colorful New England autumn afternoon, and the wind sweeps crisp leaves underfoot. The shadows are long. She has just been proposed to by a man she doesn’t love. There’s a smell of apple cider, cinnamon, and star anise, as she mounts the steps toward the open door. The clock tower beyond the Quad strikes three.

Every single one of these arouses vignettes for me, and it’s revelatory, like being in on a secret.

It’s the first time I’ve engaged in a personal project with zero precious, all joy. And while it’s not the first time I’ve kicked off “30 days of this,” “100 days of that,” this is the first time that I’m going to finish. To boot, I feel wistful about it coming to an end. I’ve looked forward to sharing a storyline every morning, and I’ll really miss that.

I’ve often felt that if something doesn’t half-kill me to make, it’s probably not worth being celebrated or shared. This project has taught me that that is so untrue. It has been full of delightful surprises, has taken up minimal time, given back maximum love. It’s also helped me gain perspective not only about making, but on how much I need art and laughter during troubled times.

It’s been a lot of fun to explore this side of creativity: breezy enjoyment and carefree sharing.

See the entire set as I finish out, on storylines.rocks, or follow along on Instagram.