Creativity Is Hustle: Make Something Every Day

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"Doing something start to finish each day not only helps you get over the fear of starting a project, but also the fear of finishing one," explains Mike Winkelman, an animator and VJ known as Beeple, and creator of Flying Lotus's "Kill Your Coworkers" music video. On May 1, 2007, he decided he was going to complete an art project every day. He hasn't missed a day since -- he calls his projects "everydays."


These fifty or so images in reverse chronological order reflect over 1600 projects made over five relentless years in which he explored photography, drawing, and computer modeling. He'll be the first to admit that they aren't all perfect, but that's the point: "Just showing up is 90% of the battle." We delve into the method to the madness in an interview below.


The Atlantic: What made you start this epic quest? 

Mike Winkelman: I saw another artist named Tom Judd who did this a few years back. I thought that was a really great idea and I figured it would be a great way to get better at drawing myself. Since then I've used this as a tool to learn about photography and 3D animation as well. 
 
You've done an insane amount of everydays -- 1620 (and counting) creations so far. Do you make something literally every day? Are there days where you just don't feel like it? 

Yep, my everydays are made entirely from scratch everyday, and as an unwritten rule, I have to have everything uploaded before midnight each night. I feel like starting from scratch each day is both a blessing and hindrance. On the one hand, it helps you get over the fear of the blank page, on the other hand it's pretty hard to make anything good in like an hour or two, and sometimes even less time. Especially now working with 3D animation there are so many tasks with making something from scratch: designing, modeling, texturing, setting up an environment, lighting, rendering, composting, post work. These pretty much all need to be done to some degree every day with a 3D render. On the plus side though, it really forces you to stretch and bend to make something not terrible in the time you have. 

As far as any days where I don't feel like it, I would say this actually happens more often than not. Most of the time it seems like a giant hassle to do as it at this point (luckily) it doesn't really even feel like something I have a choice in. So yeah, a lot of the time it's not at all convenient or fun but once you get enough days behind you like this, then the momentum of it will help force you to continue. A this point after not missing 1600 days in a row, it's gonna take a lot more than "not feeling like it" for me to miss a day.



Winkelman's video for "Kill Your Coworkers" by Flying Lotus 

Have you had any broader epiphanies about creativity in general while making everydays over the years?

I've really gotten a lot of lessons out of these besides the obvious benefit of just getting a bit better technique-wise everyday. I think doing something start to finish each day not only helps you get over the fear of starting a project, but also the fear of finishing one. I know it can be hard to let stuff go when you know you could make it better, but at some point in every project, at some level you need to be like, "fine, good enough." That's really hard for some people, but this can definitely help.

I've think a project like this also helps with the notion that you need to be in some totally inspired state of zen to create art. Art is like taking a dump, it's not always fun or convenient but it's something you gotta do everyday and you shouldn't get to hung up if the product looks like pile of crap. Yer not gonna make a masterpiece everyday or even 95% of the time, but it's a numbers game and the you've got to get rid of all those crappy ideas before you can get to the good ones. Just showing up is 90% of the battle.

You're pretty self-deprecating in your titles and descriptions, but are there any everydays that you genuinely like?

There are a few, but really not very many and these are usually the result of me just "getting lucky" and sort of happening onto something I like. If you think about it though, most of the work you see on the Internet on inspiration blogs and whatnot was not done in an hour. It was usually made over the course of days or weeks for a single image, and often by a whole team. So yeah, me pooping something out in 45 minutes is probably not gonna look that great comparatively. I also feel like I only really like things I can't do or didn't think of. Once someone like ME can do it, it can't be that great. :)

Are you going to keep doing everydays forever? Is there another medium you want to try?

I would certainly like to keep doing them as long as physically possible. I will always switch mediums every year or so since I feel like it's a good time to really grow and learn in an area. At some point in the future I'd like to learn Zbrush, Illustrator, Ableton Live, Maya, etc. There will never be a shortage of tools or media to improve in.

You share your everydays on your site and via Twitter. Is publishing them an important aspect of the process?

Sharing them is definitely a big part of this process. It helps keep you honest in terms of not just spending three minutes and saying, "yeah that counts for today." If yer putting yer stuff out there, it makes it a lot more objective in terms of whether or not that day "counts."

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to try it?

Yes, START TODAY!!!!!11 Once you get some days behind you, you'll have some momentum and it will get easier and easier to not miss a day. I would also definitely recommend choosing an activity that you can do from start to finish everyday. Having an objective goal really makes it a lot harder to fudge it and start slacking off. A project like this is about the process and incrementally getting better at something so pace yerself and be prepared for a whole lot of sucking!!!!1 :)

For more work by Mike Winkelman, check out http://beeple-crap.com/.
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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
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