Category Archives: Artsy-Fartsy Projects

One Hundred Days

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.
— Chuck Close

Last year, and in 2014, I signed up for the 100 Days Project. This is simply an agreement you make with yourself to perform one creative act every day for 100 days in a row, no stopping. Signing up with the project website allows you to post a public gallery of every day’s achievement, which is a critical part of keeping you going. It’s very, very hard.

The project was started by Auckland graphic designer Emma Rogan in 2011. She was inspired by a class taught by designer Michael Bierut, called “100 Days of Design”. Bierut realised that most creative work consisted of just showing up: doing something, no matter how small, every day until a habit forms. Creativity is not about waiting for the muse to strike, it’s about doing something whether you feel inspired or not.

Since 2011 the 100 Days Project has grown to thousands of participants all over the world. Many people sign up with grand intentions: paint a landscape every day; write a sonnet! But the graveyard of abandoned projects attest that most of these ambitions last for a couple of weeks, then peter out. Both times in the past I’ve resolved to just draw something every day, and that’s been hard enough – on several occasions I had only five minutes to make a quick sketch of my lunch or something on my desk. And several days I just couldn’t get anything done, which leaves a big embarrassing numbered space in your gallery. Last year I managed over 90% of the days; this year I’ll be trying for all 100. (Update, May 2017: I did not go the distance! Maybe next year.)

If you’re interested in kickstarting your creativity and exercising your commitment muscles, I’d recommend giving it a try. Let me know how you go in the comments.

Karmic Sharpeners

If you’re like me, you’ve probably looked at a mechanical pencil sharpener and thought, “How can I use this to improve the spritual wellbeing of the universe?”

Tibetan Buddhists believe that the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum when written out and spun around in a traditional prayer wheel (mani) invokes the powerful benevolent attention of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion, and generally makes the world a nicer place. Tibetan prayer wheels can be huge affairs, containing thousands or millions of copies of the prayer. They can also be small and hand-operated, and there are even free-standing electric models. Here’s how to turn a pencil sharpener into one.


You’ll need: a flathead screwdriver, a little tape, and the appropriate mantra. Print this web page and cut out the mantra (it’s six syllables in traditional Tibetan script, read left to right). I like to keep a spare copy in my wallet, just in case. Now find a pencil sharpener.

  1. Disassemble the pencil sharpener; even a handy Swiss Army knife will do.
  2. Tape the prayer to the outer surface of the spindle (clear of the rotating blades please!). Make sure when the spindle rotates that the prayer reads left-to-right.
  3. Reassemble, sharpen a pencil, and purify some negative karma.