Elle Luna is an artist who lives in San Francisco. In 2014, she posted an essay that she wrote and illustrated on the online platform Medium and it blew up the internet. As synchronicity would have it, to the exact day one year later, it was published as her first book: ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must’.
Her book is like a beautifully illustrated treasure map that leads you back to your creative self and talks about the most important choice we make over and over again: what we think we should be doing with our time versus what our soul really wants us to do—our internal Must.
The story of The Crossroads of Should and Must begins in 2014, when Elle was having recurring dreams of a white room she would sit in night after night where she felt a profound feeling of inner peace. She was talking to her friend, Susie Herrick, who she would later co-author her second book Your Story is Your Power with. Susie asked Elle a question that changed the course of her life, which was: “Have you ever thought to look for this room in real life?”. Elle thought, This is ridiculous! Where would I begin looking for a dream? The answer was on Craigslist (the American version of Gumtree where you buy and sell used goods). Due to the magic and strangeness of the Universe, a white room appeared available for rent in the city she lived in. AND there was an open house the very next day. After going to the open house Elle, though she had her doubts, chose to trust her intuition and put an application in. She got the apartment and moved in.
Moving in, however, didn’t stop our old friend (or foe), Fear, from creeping in. This was very different to the feeling of inner peace Elle had felt in her dreams. She sat on the floor in the middle of the room and asked aloud, “Why am I here?”. She heard the room reply, “It’s time to paint”. Hereon began the hardest and most rewarding journey of Elle’s life; she began painting her dreams in real life and following her must. In the five years since, Elle has authored two books, began the 100 Day Project on Instagram and is a co-founder and writer of the Woman Catalysts.
The tricky thing is listening to your Must, as it doesn’t shout as loudly as Should does. Must is a tiny whisper you can hear when you become still enough and most of your internal chatter has faded away. Must is that whisper of curiosity or desire that doesn’t make logical sense but brings the expansive feelings of joy and excitement, or as Elle puts it, just feels ‘yum’.
Shoulds are the expectations and obligations from society, culture, or your family. The tricky thing is, these should-factors get absorbed by your inner voice, so they feel like yourself thinking. Shoulds are those heavy obligations of how you think people want you to be in the world and how you think you should act in order to be accepted, safe and pay the rent.
Now, Elle doesn’t elicit quitting your day job and spending all your time on your Must. In fact, although time and money are often obstacles, she believes that the real obstacle is often the invisible forces behind our fear: failure, humiliation, abandonment, and death. Elle suggests to write a list of your ten biggest fears related to following your Must, then to unpack them line by line and have a conversation with your inner critic as to why you’re so afraid of them. Do you really need to sell your car to invest in starting a side hobby? Would your friends really judge you and laugh at you? Do you really need to quit your job or can you start your macrame-weaving on the weekends? She says to really ask yourself if your fears are worth not doing your Must, as it’s the ultimate trade-off to listening to what brings you joy and living your life to its fullest potential.
This brings me to my next point. Doing your Must in small amounts of time consistently will bring you so much more satisfaction than waiting for that ever-elusive one day to arrive when you have buckets of time and lots of money. Enter yourself in the 100 Day Project created by Michael Beruit, a lecturer at the Yale Masters of Fine Art program. Elle had heard about this project where students are required to repeat a design operation 100 times every day. Elle applied to get into Yale as she really wanted to partake in the project and was disappointed to not be accepted. One day, seven years later, it dawned on her that she didn’t have to go to Yale to do the 100 day project, so she rallied up some friends and they created the hashtag #the100dayproject on Instagram to be able to see each other’s work and be held accountable for their 100 day commitment. Fast forward another six years and the 100 Day Project has gathered worldwide momentum with people from over 65 countries participating. It happens once a year, usually starting around April, on Instagram. We may have missed the boat this year, but the FAQ’s on the website state that since the rules are made up, you can start any time you want!
“By day 38 I’m thoroughly out of good ideas and that’s where the project actually starts”, says Elle. The project is about reclaiming your time from mindlessly flipping on social media and comparing yourself to other people’s creativity and investing that time in yourself. She stresses that it’s very much about the process of showing up for yourself each day and getting an opportunity to see what’s inside you that wants to be expressed. It’s also an opportunity to see what Shoulds are coming up for you. When you’re creating, is there a voice from your inner critic saying it should be amazing or you should be good at it in order to share your work publicly?
Elle says when you get to know your Shoulds you bring a conscious awareness to them. Only then can you see they may be holding you in an invisible prison.
She then prompts you to dive even deeper and ask your Shoulds these questions:
I thoroughly recommend checking out Elle’s books or listening to her talks online. Perhaps The 100 Day Project might be the nudge you need to begin listening to your Must. If 100 days seems a little overwhelming, why not try five days of Peekfree Doodles to begin rebuilding your creative muscles. Imperfection is the key to our Peekfree Doodles, so just get in there and don’t hold back! Be sure to tag @testkitchenblog or #TK5daysofpeekfreedoodles so we can share in your creativity.
Read: ‘The Crossroads of Should & Must: Find and Follow Your Passion’.
Read: ‘Your Story is your Power: Free Your Feminine Voice’.
Read: Elle’s 2014 Medium Essay
Listen: CreativeMornings Talk
Watch: Interview with Chase Jarvis
Participate: The 100 Day Project
Ella Luna: Instagram | Facebook | Website