When was the last time you challenged yourself?

As advanced monkeys, we have an admirable ability to hold on to the routine. Our brains are wired that way, but every so often we just want to break through it and do something crazy. I’m a geek after all. So my idea of crazy is pretty mild in comparison to say….an average Bungy jumper.

I recently took part in the Inktober challenge for the first time. I joined thousands of illustrators worldwide in a month dedicated to drawing. And let me tell ya – It was intense!

It’s an annual challenge created by artist Jake Parker. The idea behind it is to draw one illustration per day and post it on social media. It’s an opportunity to integrate a positive habit into the day, plus a way to hone drawing skills using any medium. I chose ink.

I’m used to drawing digitally, so I looked for the undo button more times than I’d like to admit, as well as tried to zoom in on my art by un-pinching the paper.

Sharpen your pencil ladies and gents

Because I was in a stimulated state of mind,  I went for NaNoWriMo as well. A November writing event. The aim – writing a 50,000-word novel. I had an idea for a novella and decided to punch out the words after a rough outline. I figured I’d be able to reach 40 k by the end of it.

I thought to use my NaNoWriMo idea as a guideline for drawings and ignore the Inktober prompts. I wanted to introduce my hero. A young girl in a world cursed by a strange menacing legend. I initially thought the daily illustrations would be graphic depictions of scenes in the story.

Inktober Day1. prompt – ‘Fish’

As the hours ticked away and it was almost time to post the first drawing I had a last-minute change of heart.  I decided to use the Inktober prompts after all.

So with this first drawing, I slapped it in there as an afterthought.  The prompt fish was added as hidden elements. I admit it was kind of silly, but it worked out. For the rest of the month, I followed the Inktober prompts, which were random enough to be rather insightful.

Two creative challenges?

Yeah, why not right? To top it off, my country was under lockdown. So with homeschooling , I had my hands full. I wanted to give my day structure, focus, and community in the isolated state of home confinment. I wanted something to look forward to. My day was scheduled as such:

5 AM to 6 AM -Writing

7 AM-Yoga practice

8 AM – Homeschooling, while sketching feverishly and thinking of illustration ideas

11 AM – Post the illustration I had done the day before on Instagram and see other work from fellow artists.

12 AM – 19:00 – helping with homework, crafting, cooking, and amusing my daughter while sketching and drawing. By the evening I was inking and anxious and exhilarated and berated by my daughter for not giving her as much attention as I was giving my sketchbook. The following day would pretty much repeat itself.

I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. And just as I panicked for getting too deep into the weeds, something strange and unexpected occurred.

Inktober day2. prompt – ‘Whisp’.


A plethora of good and bad

The prompts gave me new ideas. Creatures with strange habits, like rock-eating beetles. The prompts fed into my morning writing sessions. Characters became real. Traits I hadn’t thought of were introduced. They became an integral part of the story.

Inktober prompt – disease or Disgusting – This added the idea of an eating disorder to my main character
Inktober prompt – Teeth. This prompt stirred a thought about the maturation of the main character and what the last falling tooth of a child represents in the aspect of character growth.
Inktober prompt ‘Outpost’ – correlated with a specific bit of narrative about watching the landscape from a tower. A symbolic tower used by the observer.


Inktober prompt ‘Rocket’ as the sky literally fell down over the characters heads
Inktober prompt ‘sleep’. A symbolic dreaming of a new world into being and probably my own fatigue.


Inktober Prompt ‘Float’. The last illustration I made for the challenge. It came just as the leaves were falling and Halloween was at the door. I was spent with the effort and ready to stop.

The creative balance

The saying goes. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. I felt as though it was worth more. With the weight of worth came a lot of work. I skipped days during Inktober. Work-life-creative balance wobbled all the time. Some illustrations were hastily made. Others were poorly executed. I was feeling down with the ‘performance’ of it all. Social media left me with a sense of emptiness. After two days of shuffling at the bottom of my creative barrel, I decided to stop. I sulked and kicked myself for quitting. Three days later I gathered the ego off the metaphorical floor.

I gave myself a hefty pat on the back. I had done it. I completed most of the goals. In the end, I had about 20 or so illustrations. It was cool. It was good enough. Awesome actually.  I was happy with the result which fed itself into my morning writing.

I carried on to complete my novella. Currently, I’m surpassing my goal of 40,000 words. It turns out the writing habit this month was easier than the drawing one.

So as writers all around the world are in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I wish to extend my wish for a happy and healthy creative process for all.

Stay healthy and joyous.


“The road is more important than the goal,” said the wise Gylve Fenris Nagell



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s