Finished with Inktober, prepped for NaNoWriMo and ready to get started! My thoughts on both challenges, creative growth and the need to tailor your self challenges to your personal goals without regard to where everyone else is in theirs.
Inktober has been fairly low key for me but I have found enormous growth in areas I had been very weak in. Somewhere around “Spread” I had lost my steam and was feeling frustrated. With every challenge undertaken there’s always a desire to excel but the day to day reality of it is that life throws other challenges at you that aren’t part of the plan. Rather than revel in my own self admonishing misery I decided to count how many days I had made something I either was happy with or that I learned something in the process of doing. The count was a little over half and it made me revise how I viewed my finished pieces. “View” was a piece that annoyed me, it was sloppy and sketchy because I had less than ten minutes that day to devote to the prompt because it had been a day full of other obligations. It was easy to fixate on the feeling of failure. Easier than accepting the truth that I had to accept the time allocated in the day and move forward.
This has been the struggle of my creative life. There’s a toxic quality in society that encourages driven people to never accept defeat. Creatively this can turn into bad habits that inhibit recovering and moving forward. Revising my outlook on what made me happy in Inktober helped me approach each day’s prompt with exactly as much time and energy as I had in me that day. Going into the month I wanted every piece to feel finished and wanted it to represent my best effort. I wanted it to be what I knew I could accomplish when everything aligned perfectly. The reality of the journey was that days like “Comfort” were attempts at something that didn’t turn out exactly as I desired but the attempts made days like “Playful” and “Cute” possible.
I tried my hand at drawing Misty Copeland, Tanya Trombly (BulletProof Ballerina) and Safiya Nygaard. None of these attempts worked out as desired but I’ve often wanted to draw them and been daunted by the idea of failing to capture what I’m trying to capture. I did fail but I also got closer to capturing it than I had when I was saving pictures and trying to work up the nerve to practice.
Taken as individual pieces, Inktober can feel disappointing depending on how the day played out. If the day was lived in service to the piece then it can feel exhilarating. The sense that the effort and the art aligned and became a personal best is inspiring. When the day is full of chores, obstacles, bad sleep and other little nails in the coffin there’s the frustration and disappointment. However, the month is a journey with each day training your hands, eyes and mind to distill something visually that is also more.
What I did not enjoy this month was the daily posting. It was a different sort of pressure to perform, unaided by Instagram and my phone’s relationship. The posting is an important part of Inktober that I don’t plan to stop doing but I found that I liked putting the pieces and prompts together in a grouping because it enabled me to see the bigger picture when I posted. Next year I think I will employ this strategy. And that’s really the other lesson of Inktober. If you are participating as an artist, the experience is about finding the tools and methods that help you improve. I love that!
My Preptober hasn’t been terribly meaty because I am focused on this rewrite that I’ve been engaged in all year. Also, I like to pants word count challenges. Structure is helpful during editing and this is why I find that, for me, it is stifling during NaNoWriMo. The parts of my brain that are curious and creative often stalemate with the editing parts. As with Inktober I’ve discovered that it is not worth fighting against this. Instead I’m learning to facilitate the best use of both. This is perhaps the reason for the write drunk, edit sober idea. With that in mind, my Preptober consists of a checklist of scenes I am already interested in writing which will operate as basic signposts/prompts and the motto to Stay Curious. I’m less concerned with my word count or the structure of the story, my editor is very concerned with both because a completed novel will require a certain length and structure. But, my storyteller wants to know what happens, wants to know why and how and when and the unbounded curiosity makes cramming 50k words or more into 30 days truly manageable. My failed years have been the result of a lack of interest in the story I was undertaking. When my editor convinces me that a story can live between the gaps in an outline I find that I don’t really care, I already know what happens and I’m not intrigued.
But, mileage varies. That’s the other lesson of NaNoWriMo. The reality of writing is that you’re going to be doing it on a regular basis. Just as you can’t work out for one month out of twelve and expect to be fit and healthy, you can’t write a novel in 30 days. You can learn more about yourself as a writer and in the process you can write something that will become a novel but it works best when you can find a way to make it work for you.