art, writing, Writing Prompts, Writing resources

Creative Challenges – do you play along?

I’ve just finished my second year of creating an ink drawing every day in October! This art challenge, called #Inktober, is only one of the many creative challenges that I’ve participated in over the years.

These creative challenges span the calendar year.

Opus, our local art supply shop company, sponsors Opus Daily Practice—a challenge to create a piece of art every day in February.

April is National Poetry Month where the challenge is to write a poem a day. I’ve done this a few times with the aid of prompts from Writer’s Digest and poetry blogs.

July is National Watercolor Month. Two years ago I created a piece of watercolor art every day in July.

October is #Inktober, referred to above.

November is National Novel Writing Month— NaNoWriMo—when writers all over the world work at creating a 50,000 word novel over the 30 days of November.

These are just some of the challenges that I’ve completed. There are tons more all around!

But what’s the point to challenges, you may ask? And are there pros? Cons?

For me, one point has been to start and keep those creative juices flowing. Responding to daily challenges have helped me become more consistent in my creative practice through the rest of the year as well.  Once you’ve established a creative habit over 30-or-so days, it’s easier to keep going than to stop.

Another point is to assemble material (art or writing) that is ready to ship or to continue to work on.

There are cons, though. And pros too.


– Feeling trapped and locked in.

Once you’ve set out on a challenge, there will be days you just don’t feel like drawing or writing. Then, especially if you have announced your intention to complete this challenge to the world,  you will feel trapped by your own resolve.

– Time suck.

No matter how quickly you create, participating in a creative challenge takes time. In order to complete it, you may need to pare down your expectations about how much you’ll get done in other departments and eliminate non-essential activities and projects from your schedule.

– Subject matter dilemma.  

Every day you need to figure out what to create. Prompts and lists of ideas are helpful here. But even if you have those, you still need to decide on your approach to each day’s prompt. I’ve found that on some days coming up with a subject can take as long as doing the art or writing.


There are PROS too, and I think they outweigh the cons:

– Form habits of productive creativity.

Responding regularly to a month’s worth of daily challenges, or ones that recur weekly over a longer period, help form habits of consistent creativity.

– Try new subjects.

As someone who loves to draw and paint flowers, still life subjects, with the odd landscape thrown in, lists of prompts have challenged me to attempt subjects I would never do on my own. For example, the Inktober prompt for this October 15 was “Armadillo.” I have never drawn an armadillo before but this October I did.

“Armadillo” – sketch by Violet Nesdoly, Reference from Wikipedia.

– Strengthen the creativity muscle.

Someone has said that when searching for ideas, discard the first two or three as they are almost guaranteed to be cliché. As mentioned above, finding the idea for a piece of art or writing can take almost as long as doing the creating. If I know right away how I want to respond, when I see a prompt or idea, I go with my gut. But if it’s a search, I find that giving myself a bit of time is helpful. Brainstorming can also be a good way of taking me away from the obvious and to a more creative interpretation. I also look through the list of prompts early, make notes of possible subjects, and keep that list in mind when I looking through my photos for possible reference material. With time and practice, my creativity muscle has grown stronger and reacts more quickly.

– Collect new material.

After a month of creating, I have a stash of new material, drawings, poems, stories, or chapters—as fodder for upcoming projects, or even to sell as is. In this department, when drawing, I make it a practice to use only one side of my sketchbook paper and limit my notes to the area above the perforation. That way if I want to do something with the sketch, it is neatly self-contained without a mess on the back side. (I have collected some of my favourite drawings from past years in a Sketches and Drawings gallery on Daily Paintworks.)

– Grow community.

In past years I have met wonderful people during National Poetry Month (April) through sharing newly composed poems on a blog. And I still have fond memories of the people with whom I shared the NaNoWriMo experience in 2009, when I wrote the first draft of the novel Destiny’s Hands (which I went on to publish in 2012).

Art challenges are easy to follow on Instagram when participants use hashtags to gather all the entries in one spot. Dropping a few comments will often spark a positive experience and perhaps even a friendship between you and the artist you’re complimenting.

Do you participate in creative challenges? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

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