On the last day of 2011, I wrote a blog post entitled ‘Another day, another mile.’ That year, I had decided to run at least one mile every day, no matter the circumstances.
The challenge was not physically that demanding, aside from the occasional post-hundred recovery run. I did start off a little injured, but gradually found a sustainable rhythm to stay true to my commitment throughout the year.
The obstacles I encountered were more logistical, such as running a mile in the airport, and mental, requiring unwavering dedication to performing the task.
To put it simply, I often just did not feel like running. There were no tangible fitness benefits or really any joy to running in circles in a parking lot at 4 a.m. to get in another mile, yet there were no real good reasons not to either.
In the moment, it is sometimes difficult to rationalize the meaning of pursuing such an arbitrary goal. Yet, as the small snippets of experience accumulate, they yield a refinement in perspective unattainable through half-measures. It is one thing to appreciate the value of commitment and dedication, but it is truly transformative to live that way.
On the last day of 2014, I was crewing my uncle at Across the Years, a 24-hour track race where he was attempting to run a 100 miles in a day. As the clock ticked over into 2015, I posted a snap of the New Year’s festivities on my Instagram feed that read, “Running across the years. Happy New Year! 1/365.”
My first photo of the year came with the commitment to post one each day another 364 times. Much like my running streak, I wanted the goal to be attainable, so I set no additional rules other than posting one photo a day. While my intention was to document my year through new daily images, I did not restrict my posting to that parameter, allowing for a few throwback photos or pictures from other photographers of me that fit a particular outing.
The overarching objective of my daily posts was to establish a framework for the creative process, to help me think about and hopefully capture and share part of my experience mainly as it relates to living and moving in the mountains.
It is impossible to fully relate how we feel in a given moment, yet notes and photographs serve as valuable tools to pause time and capture something that has grabbed our attention.
When creating an image, I become fully absorbed in the moment, before pausing the scene, hopefully at the exact right instance to convey the detail, feeling, or emotion that has captivated me. The actual process of taking the photograph, sometimes even just thinking about the image, is just as rewarding on a personal level as the end result.
For me, this is where the true value of the daily practice lies–a shift from simply participating in an activity to making the process an integral part of how we experience the world. Little by little, practice becomes much less of a chore and more of a habit, a way to frame our day through a chosen lens. I don’t think that creativity is stymied by habit, instead the ritual highlights certain details only privy to the keen observer, a refinement of reality rather than a banalization.
On a personal level this project has been rewarding on many fronts, from challenging myself to think creatively, to learning more about photography, to sharing and exchanging with a broad and diverse audience. Looking back through photos from the year triggers so many memories, some good, some bad, but all which have contributed to a fascinatingly rich 2015. Here’s to more good years ahead and continuing to lead an examined life.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you ever made some part of being creative a habit, like Joe’s one-photo-per-year endeavor? What has the experience been like for you?
- Did you follow Joe’s year of photos on Instagram? If so, what kinds of reactions did doing so trigger for you?