What I Learned From Doing Inktober

On what seemed a last minute whim, I decided to do Inktober this year. I had to complete an inked drawing every day for the month of October. I jumped in with Chesterton’s advice marching before me: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.”

You can view all my drawings here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/W2wduJVopW2i5rDF3

In order to get to the good stuff, you have to slog through the bad stuff, and this is true in learning any endeavor. I’ve been teaching myself to draw for months now, with the intended goal to eventually illustrate my own children’s books, to get to a high standard I would be proud of.

I’m still probably a year away from doing anything serious (and even then, I won’t be great and will have to wait to implement some of my more ambitious ideas), but Inktober was a giant step forward, for a few reasons.

  • Since you have to post to social media, even your failures, you get over your fear of embarrassment quickly. (And boy, did I have some failures). But, no matter how bad you are, you’re still better than everyone who chose not to show up.
  • I drew things I would never have drawn before.
  • I’m actually proud of some of the work I did, and I can see the potential.

But there were two big takeaways from Inktober

Saturation Brings Insight

By focusing on this form of drawing every single day, forcing myself to finish, I saturated my mind in similar tasks, over and over. When trying to solve problems in the same domain like this, you are more likely to have insights and make connections.

My key insight and takeaway is that I now have better clarity over what I need to improve. What I need to practice. What I should focus on to bring a better return on my time investment. Specifically, figure drawing and capturing subtle shifts of shadow when working with nothing but black and white. The latter, in particular, should help me when I make the jump to studying color.

I think this is true for anything. To make significant improvement, you need long stretches of focus and saturation. Surface level skimming might get you enough to stumble along, but for true, lasting improvement, you need to drink deep.

Discipline is Contagious

Every day. No matter what. Have a brand new SNES classic? You can’t play it, because you have work to do. If you waste time, you get less sleep. Period. These type of habits are not isolated, and the muscle you build in one area can be used for other tasks.

Once you see what you can accomplish, you want to be able to do it again in other areas. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I also got back into the habit of reading at least two non-fiction books every night before bed, 15 minutes each. It’s doesn’t sound like much, but I’m a third of the way through one and a quarter of a way through the other one after just 2 weeks. I’ve also been able to wake up an average of 45 minutes earlier than usual. That’s a lot of extra time each day.

Now I’m looking more actively at how I can apply systems to other areas of my life, including work. It has me contemplating how much I could accomplish if I ruthlessly cut out other parts of my life, like social media.

It’s contagious.

I encourage everyone to do some kind of 30 day challenge, one that requires significant effort everyday, something that makes you tired, but not exhausted. Make a promise to yourself and keep it. And that won’t be the only area of your life that improves.

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