October is the month when Inktober happens, with prompts to do an ink drawing every day. I’ve tried it twice and never quite managed. There are of course many of these out there, for art, writing and probably other things too. The idea is to build skills. I find them to be a bit of a mixed bag.
There are obvious advantages to doing something every day – you build skills and discipline and you improve at doing the thing, whatever it is. Much of what we do is habit, and getting into the habit of doing something creative every day can be really helpful. Making time every day for creativity is a good thing, too. Sharing creativity with friends who are doing the same month long whatever it is can be fun and community building and mutually supportive.
It can also be a distorting experience. I’ve seen how some people react to NaNoWriMo around expectations of published success, and I worry for them. I see what not completing the month can do in terms of feelings of failure and inadequacy. It can turn something that might have been a pleasure into a chore. For people working in creative industries, it can be one more burden, one more stress, feeling the pressure to get involved but not really getting much benefit from it.
I’m not doing Inktober this year. I don’t have the time or the energy and I don’t want to make my life any more challenging right now. However, I am trying to make time to draw more often as something I do for me. This has definitely improved my drawing skills, and I enjoy it more when I’m not trying to keep up with some arbitrary program.
The key thing, clearly, is to do what works for you. This means paying attention to whether something really works for you or not. If it makes you happy, do it! If devoting a month to something is useful, or productive for you, then go for it. If the tools, community and sharing aspect helps you get motivated, excellent! Do it your way. Do it on your terms. Ignore any aspect that doesn’t suit you. If it’s not giving you something, you don’t owe it your time and energy.
I firmly believe that everyone should have the time, energy and resources to be creative on a regular basis. I also know that many people do not have that. I would like it to be much more normal for people to do creative things for the sheer joy of it, without having to make it pay, but in reality many people cannot afford that time. We need better distributions of work, money and play, and then any month could be a month you devote to doing something special.
Here’s a recent ink piece of mine – Salamandra from Hopeless, Maine.