Developing Deliberate Daily Discipline

CreativityAs December 2013 came to an end I was considering doing another one of those 365 Day Photo Project, where you take a photo every day for a year. I’ve done these before, one very successfully where I actually did take and post a new photo every day for a year, and two other attempts that started well but eventually ran out of steam.

Being disciplined is hard, at least, it is for me. These projects where you promise yourself that you will do something every day for a year are not easy. You miss a day here or there and then conclude that there’s no point carrying on with it.  In truth, even if you only took 150 photos out of the 365 you’re supposed to, you’d still have 150 photos! Not to mention a whole lot more practice as a photographer.

This year I wanted to do something, but was looking for something a bit different to just taking photos. So I asked for some suggestions on Twitter and got a bunch of interesting ideas back. Taking these suggestions as a whole, I thought it might be interesting to keep it a little bit open this year and just create something, anything, every day. So in 2014 I’m doing a project I’m calling The Daily Create. Every day I’ll be posting something – a video, a poem, a piece of writing, a song, a story, and yes, maybe even a photo or two.  To keep it organised I’m doing it on a different blog dedicated just to the purpose at

Why do these daily projects? What’s the point?

Aside from the idea that I think that we all have a basic need to create and share our ideas with others, forcing yourself to do something every day is a wonderful way to keep learning new things. In the eight days I’ve been doing this project so far I’ve learned to use apps that I had never really learned to use, discovered techniques that I didn’t know about, solidified ideas that had only been nebulous thoughts floating around in my brain, and even solved a couple of practical problems around the house. These simple little daily creations have already given me a number of project ideas that I can get my students to work on this year.

I think when you get into the swing of doing something every day your brain starts to see new opportunities to learn and create. We talk a lot about the value of iteration, and learning by doing, and just making lots and lots of stuff regardless of whether it’s any good or not, and daily projects are a good way to do that.  You WILL learn things along the way, I promise you that. Although some people don’t always associate the idea of having discipline with the idea of creativity, they are most definitely connected!

January is easy. We all have enough things floating through our heads that we can fill January up. By mid-February you’re starting to run out of ideas but if you’re committed to the project you just force yourself to keep coming up with them and that’s where it starts to get interesting. By June you’re clutching at straws, coming up with some wacky and unexpected things because, well, you promised yourself you would and have to come up with something! By September you’ll be looking back a body of work that will surprise you in its diversity and by the end of the year you’ll actually be sad that it’s coming to an end.

It’s these little daily deliberate actions that add up over time to produce the unexpected things that often become the work we are most proud of. And if you get to next December and you’ve stuck to it, I guarantee you’ll be even more proud of yourself just for sticking with it.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Developing Deliberate Daily Discipline by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

6 Replies to “Developing Deliberate Daily Discipline”

  1. Hi Chris, I totally agree. My son Jared set himself a project before going off to the US for an exchange program to write a song a day in response to other people’s requests. Admittedly this was not for a whole year but a creative challenge nonetheless. He was unable to keep up with the ‘one a day’ rigour but the self imposed pressure resulted in some music being produced that would not have otherwise happened. It also was an interaction with others that was socially engaging, creatively satisfying with some interesting music as the result. He taught himself new musical skills and established a structured routine of attack that ended up working quite well. He published the requests, his words, music and responses in an 8 page blog.
    I have given the link to page 5 of the blog as the song there references the great 007 anthem which I thought appropriate after your ealier post.
    All the music is catalogued on soundcloud at
    which is also accessed from the blog pages.
    Good luck with your own challenge, looking forward to seeing the results!!

    1. Hey Jen, thanks for the feedback. I think you’re 100% spot-on about all of that. All of those reasons you mentioned – creatively satisfying, socially engaging, etc – make perfect sense to me.

      Just had a listen to that song… your son’s music is awesome! I love that creative spirit! I especially loved the line at the top of his Tumblr page that says “you give me an idea, and i write you a song”. Love it!

      And you actually raise another really interesting aspect of this ongoing creativity/production/sharing cycle, and that is how it opens doors that you could never have predicted would be opened because of the sharing. I see it over and over and over… people make stuff, they give it away freely, they don’t get all protective and territorial about it, and the rewards of that sharing spirit comes back to them manyfold, often from a completely different source. Karma I guess…

      Has your son come across a guy called Jonathan Coulton? ( Coulton was a computer programmer that loved to make music so he took a year off and did a project he called “Thing a Week”, which aimed to write a song or make a piece of music or do something creative once a week. (Weekly is probably far more reasonable than daily when it comes to music by the way…. Daily! What, is your son crazy??) 🙂 He also released everything freely under a Creative Commons licence so anyone could take it and listen to it, or even remix it.

      Those 52 weeks changed Coulton’s life, made him an “internet sensation”, and put him on a new musical career path. Check out his Wikipedia page, it’s a great story. From Wikipedia, it says “From September 16, 2005, to September 30, 2006, Coulton ran “Thing a Week”, during which he recorded 52 musical pieces in an effort to push his creative envelope via a “forced-march approach to writing and recording”; to prove to himself that he could produce creative output to a deadline; and to see whether a professional artist could use the Internet and Creative Commons to support himself.”

      All of the things I think you and I both agree on as valuable lessons found in forced creativity.

      Oh and his music is awesome too. 🙂

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      1. Hi Chris, Ibelieve Jared was inspired by Coulton’s project when he decided to embark on his own. Did I say ‘One a day?’; that’s ridiculous! I should have said “One a week” especially considering he was also working each day at the same time! My favourite songs he produced during this period were “I Don’t Know about You but I Definitely put Jedi Down on my Census Form” and ‘Yo Teach’
        Jared also uses creative commons and the internet to support himself. He has released a couple of albums with his band Vanguard Party where the music is free to download or people can choose to buy the music at a price they name themselves. They have a small local following but members moving around the country and the world creates disruption to their ability to play regularly.
        Thanks for your kind words about his creativity. We try to be as supportive as possible of this but his obsession often can be source of friction as well particularly when it seems nothing else matters. However, on the whole it has been an overwhelmingly positive force in his life and has helped shape his personality and outlook on the world. I could definitely recommend it to anyone inspired to try it….often the outcomes can be very pleasantly surprising.

    1. Hi Paula,

      Thank you

      As for using whatever you find in this blog, sure, go for it. Everything I put here is published under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence, so as long as you say where you got it from and grant others the same permission to likewise take it from you as well, then use it any way you like. That’s the beauty of Creative Commons, it pre-authorises the sharing so you really don’t even need to ask. But thanks for asking anyway. 🙂


  2. I agree completely. I did the 365 challenge a couple of years ago and found, as well as helping me to commit to the task, it actually helped me commit to all tasks. It put some structure into my day which ended up helping me tie other tasks into that structure.

    I also loved the chance it gave me each day to stop and reflect on what image might sum up my experience of the world that day. Anything that slows us down and gives us time to reflect and celebrate in the general hectic, hubbub of life is a good thing.

    All the best – shall be following along to see what artistic creations you come up with!

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