7 Boxes


Here’s the idea: Spend 5 minutes of your day making something. Think of this as a way if priming the pump and getting the creative juices flowing.

It’s easier to create when there is a space to be filled and a clear deadline for filling that space.


7 Boxes. 7 days in a week.

Each day take at least five minutes and put something in that space.

This could take the form of…

Full disclosure: I have absolutely no training in the visual arts whatsoever. Maybe that’s why filling a little box with a drawing every day has been such a fun exercise for me. I have absolutely no expectations about what these things should or should not be. This has been a wonderful exercise in getting out of my own head, and just putting pen to paper without judgement. My only goal: Take five minutes and fill the white space with something.

So far I’ve found that the best time for me to do this is the first thing in the morning right after getting out of bed. In fact I now absolutely LOVE this as a way to start my day. Remember: What you draw doesn’t actually have to be anything real at all. Shapes. Colors. Crudely drawn faces. What you draw doesn’t matter, only that you put pen to paper and draw something. Think of this as a way to exercise a part of your brain that you don’t usually get to use over the course of your day. I know that I never have. Now that I’ve been at this a while it’s been fun to go back and look at all of my creations. Some still look like random shapes, and remember, that’s ok. But over time my imagination has turned other things that I’ve drawn into all sorts of fabulous things. Spiders Falling Off a Mountain.. Gator Face. An Alien Bumblebee. Fun stuff!

Because my training is in music it can sometimes be challenging to let go of the perfectionist inside that says ‘I can’t let something out into the world that isn’t up to my high standards.’ The problem with this of course is that it’s so easy to be so focused on keeping high standards that you never actually release anything at all. One of the reasons for starting ’52 Things’ was I wanted to find a way to boost my creative output. There’s something safe in my daily ‘7 (Musical) Boxes‘ creations. I’m not calling these songs. I’m not calling them anything really. Just me sitting at my iPod touch making a beat. These beats may someday become the seeds of larger works. Then again, maybe they’ll never do anything but sit here on ’52 Things’. The most important thing is that I’m working on my craft every day. I’m saying to my subconscious: ‘This is important to me.’. Quantity is now my new priority. Out of that will one day come the quality that I desire.

What’s my process? I get up every morning and set the timer on my iPod touch for six minutes. (For all of my ‘Boxes’ I set my timer for 6 minutes instead of 5… My own little quirk.) I launch either Native Instruments iMaschine or more recently the DM1 by Fingerlab. I may explore other tools down the road, but remember that the goal with this is not to create some brilliant finished product. The goal is to spend five minutes making music. Spending 3 minutes waiting for your computer to wake up and your DAW to launch is not what you should be doing here. The other benefit of these iOS tools is that I can instantly upload my creations to Soundcloud, which is very handy.

For my ‘7 Boxes (of Words)‘ my goal is to come up with a a grouping of words that fits within the relatively small confines of the same 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch box that I use for drawing. I typically start out with a pad of paper, set the timer for 6 minutes, and then write the first combinations of words that come to mind. I do my best not to judge the (sometimes… frequently?) outrageous things that come to me, but simply let my intuition be my guide. As I’m writing some type of structure always tends to appear. At the end I’ll circle the parts that I think make the most coherent presentation, then switch over to the computer. I fire up Adobe Illustrator, and then type the words that I liked the best into my box for the day. I present things this way because my handwriting tends to be rather atrocious, and it’s also fun to experiment with different fonts in Illustrator.

The thing that makes this an interesting exercise is the time constraint, and the 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch box. I don’t have the luxury of obsessing too much over a phrase or a word, because I know that I have to come up with something (anything!) to put in that tiny little box. So far I’ve been pleased with the results, both in the things I’ve created and in the way this forces my brain to kick start in the morning.

Here’s the template that I’ve been using for drawing.
Here’s a zip file of the Adobe Illustrator template that I’ve been using for my ‘words’.

7 days in a week. 7 days of your creations. Sounds like a good place to start.