The 100 Day Project: 100 poems written and illustrated in 100 days by two Canadian creatives.

Courtney Symons
Apr 1, 2019 · 13 min read
The final product. You can buy one here!

Note: Scroll to the bottom to see our gallery of designed poems!

A lot can change in 100 Days.

Have you heard of The 100 Day Project? It’s a challenge to do something every single day for 100 days, and share it for accountability. My 100 Day Project challenged my creativity, kindled me to a kindred spirit, and took me to Mexico.

The 100 Day Project is a free art project that encourages thousands of people around the world to commit to 100 days of exploring their creativity. The official challenge takes place on Instagram, using the hashtag #The100DayProject. Absolutely anyone can join, and that definitely includes you.

Don’t think of yourself as being particularly creative? All the more reason to try this challenge! You can choose anything you like — starting a conversation with a stranger, baking, gardening… anything that sparks a fire in you and makes you feel alive. I’ve seen people take on challenges to learn calligraphy, draw monsters, write blog posts, and play the piano. The possibilities are endless.

This year’s challenge began on April 2, and ended in mid-July. But you can start a challenge any time! Like… today?

I’ve successfully completed The 100 Day Project three times now, and am currently working on my fourth. What could possibly keep me coming back to the same creative challenge over and over?

Why I do it

After completing my first challenge, I wrote about it on Medium in an article called What I Learned Writing a Haiku Every Day for 100 Days. One paragraph from this reflection still rings so very, very true to me:

“More than anything, I learned that it’s important to practice your passions.You can’t spend your life telling people you’re a writer if you don’t write. Which is what I was coming dangerously close to doing. I can confidently say that I am a writer. I refrain from adding any form of qualifier, because on some days I’m a good writer; on very rare days I’m a great writer; and more often than not I’m a hack. But I’m a writer, and it feels good to own that part of my identity again.”

When I wrote this in 2015, I was working as a marketer. Today, I’m a full-time writer. I can’t help but feel that my motivation to become a writer was fuelled in part by these creative challenges, and my ability to call myself a writer.

I can’t tell you exactly how much a challenge like this can change your life. You wouldn’t believe me if I tried. But if you’re in a creative rut, or looking for something to add meaning to your days, this is the challenge for you.

It’s definitely the challenge for me. And I couldn’t be more excited for how I’m levelling up my commitment this year!

What I’m doing

This year, I’m embarking on my fourth take of The 100 Day Project. I’m writing a poem every day for 100 days, and sharing it on Instagram. It will include a healthy dose of haikus (they’re my fave), as well as whatever format tickles me that particular day.

I’ve written poems in the past for my challenges, but this year I’ve decided to level up in two new ways.

I’m anchoring all of my entries around one core theme, to create a full anthology of 100 poems that I will publish at the end of it all, and I’m calling it 100 Days of Passages. I’ve been captivated lately by life’s little and large transitions. The ways we travel from one state or place to another. Each day, I will write a poem on the theme of transition. The word “passages” is my way of explaining this, and I can’t help but love the double-meaning that comes from the literary sense of the word.

The second bit is the most exciting part. I teamed up with the incredibly talented designer Mariel Vandeloo who created beautiful drawings to accompany my words. It was a feast for the senses. I can’t wait to show you what we created together. Here was our launch post:

Our Passages announcement poster!

My favourite part of this challenge was sharing it with someone else. Seeing how Mariel brought my words to life with her illustrations was such a lovely surprise each day. Seeing her thrive and grow alongside me is sooooo much fun!

Here’s a look behind the scenes on our creative collaboration for the announcement poster:

These were the three options Mariel designed for me to choose from! Did I make the right choice?!

What I learned

For a Type A control freaklette (that’s the level below full freak), sharing control of this challenge with someone else was something I thought I’d struggle with. Pfft. Turns out, Mariel f’ing Vandeloo is the most reliable creative human you can imagine. She never let me down once throughout the challenge. In the end, letting go of control felt really, really good.

The daily communication as we collaborated was a definite perk. With her living in Toronto and me in Ottawa, it was a great way to maintain and build our friendship.

The largest boon, and I can’t stress this enough, is that you get to celebrate with someone else when you’ve completed the challenge. Neither of us did this alone; we couldn’t have done it solo. We did it together. I’m always one for celebrating accomplishments of any size (life’s more fun that way), and so we decided to celebrate in a BIG way when we finished our project.

Mariel and I took ourselves to Tulum for a magical, mystical, cenote-swimming, Mayan Ruin-viewing, beach side lounging, taco tasting, margarita making adventure in Mexico.

Dip, dip, and swingin’ in the private cenote at Clandestino, a bar built on stilts above the water.
Our private pool on the terrace of our precious rooftop Airbnb condo. 😍
Fraaaaaands!

I’m also decided to get a tattoo to honour the project, designed by hers truly (Mariel). My left ankle will forever remind me of this creative endeavour.

Designed, of course, by Mariel.

See? The celebration ALONE is reason enough to try a creative challenge like this!

100 Days of Passages

Throughout the challenge, I published one of these each day on my Instagram account, @courtneysymons.

Our final product, a gorgeous full-colour hardcover book featuring all 100 poems, is now an art book! If you want a closer look, here’s our Shopify store.

Day 1: Welcome to Passages

Day 2: Reflections

Day 3: Wanderlust

Day 4: Forgiveness

Day 5: Out of love haiku

Day 6: Time is relative

Day 7: Advice

Day 8: Scars

Day 9: Social life

Day 10: Whole heart

Day 11: Geese

Day 12: On pregnancy

Day 13: Sunrise, sunset

Day 14: Spring

Day 15: Youth

Day 16: Beautiful zombies

Day 17: Self-love

Day 18: Transatlanticism*

* A word made up by Death Cab for Cutie about feeling you are oceans away from someone, whether or not there are actual oceans between you. Great album and song, too.

Day 19: Six-word story

Day 20: Flow state haiku

Day 21: Untitled

Day 22: Ghost

Day 23: Snakeskin

Day 24: Turning grey

Day 25: Afterlife

Day 26: At sea

Day 27: Love lost

Day 28: Speechless

Day 29: Struggle

Day 30: Writing prompt

Day 31: Diamond’s aren’t a girl’s best friend

Day 32: Partnership

Day 33: A blessing

Day 34: Bods

Day 35: Grace, grief, gratitude

Day 36: Lightening

Day 37: Temporary love

Day 38: The Chicken Man

Context: Anyone from my hometown of Georgetown, Ontario has heard of the Chicken Man. He’s almost an urban legend: a man who would ride around town on a bike with a chicken in his basket. All the time. I always wondered, who was he? Where was he biking to, or from? Did he have a home?

@lauraczerwinski met him once at the movie theatre, and she tells me his name was George, and his hen was Penny. There’s even a new brewery in Georgetown, @furnace_room_brewery who pays tribute to him with their Chicken Man Pale Ale!

Day 39: Enough

Day 40: Slow reveal

Day 41: Mother’s Day

Day 42: Fire

Day 43: Great green

Day 44: Happy accident

Day 45: Juxtaposition

Day 46: Vampiric love

Day 47: Technevolution

Day 48: Proxy

Day 49: Best and worst

Day 50: Nostalgia

Day 51: Witchcraft

Day 52: Receptive

Day 53: Spinning

Day 54: Fire and spark

Day 55: Full soul

Day 56: Overheard in an airport

Day 57: My mental model

Day 58: All take, no give

Day 59: Remember

Day 60: Death-defying

Day 61: For the Hannah’s

Day 62: Word play

Day 63: Bodies

Day 64: Unreliable narrator

Day 65: Follow your curiosity

Day 66: Advice to a younger me

Day 67: Inner oceans

Day 68: Self love 101

Day 69: On writing

Day 70: Illumination

Day 71: Love languages

Day 72: One for the Nonnas

Day 73: Motherhood

Context: This is the one I was most nervous to publish, and it was the one that got the most positive feedback, responses, and story sharing out of the whole challenge. Go figure. Glad I changed my mind; I almost didn’t publish it.

Day 74: You can’t fix them

Day 75: Patience

Day 76: On the run

Day 77: Save yourself

Day 78: When you’re lonely

Day 79: Kindness is not weakness

Day 80: Healing

Day 81: Storytell

Day 82: Jump!

Day 83: Mont Tremblant

Day 84: Ode to TO

Day 85: Humanity

Day 86: Try it

Day 87: Metamorphosis haiku

Day 88: Create

Day 89: Sunset

Day 90: Bad advice

Day 91: O Canada, my version

Context: I took the last word from every line of our national anthem, and then had fun with the rest. A tribute to this beautiful country I am so lucky to call home.

Day 92: Ruler of your life

Day 93: An ode to cedar trees

Day 94: To dust

Day 95: Open your mind

Day 96: The seasons of your life

Day 97: Clock sonnet

Context: Tried my hand at a sonnet — abab cdcd efef gg rhyming structure (with some other fun rhymes thrown in there just because), each line 10 syllables, and all done using iambic pentameter.

Day 98: Saboteur

Day 99: Two Passagers

Day 100: The end.

Holy doodle, you made it all the way to the end. Thank you so much for reading. If you’d like to support our art, buy yourself or someone you love a copy of your own personal Passages book. I’ll write you a love note when I ship it, promise.

The Open Notebook

A place to publish the things I write in my notebook that…

Courtney Symons

Written by

Courtney Symons is Editor in Chief at Shopify. She lives in a log cabin in the woods of Ottawa, Canada. Writer, poet, practicing haikuist.

The Open Notebook

A place to publish the things I write in my notebook that no one ever sees.

Courtney Symons

Written by

Courtney Symons is Editor in Chief at Shopify. She lives in a log cabin in the woods of Ottawa, Canada. Writer, poet, practicing haikuist.

The Open Notebook

A place to publish the things I write in my notebook that no one ever sees.

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