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Creativity Under Pressure

Whether it’s a logo for a client, website copy, or an advertising campaign, those of us who work in creative pursuits are constantly looking for ways to harken our muse.

Last month, I participated (for the third time) in Inktober, one of my favorite ways to challenge myself creatively. The assignment: create an ink drawing related to the daily one-word prompt. Post it on social media. Repeat each day of October.

You can see all of my Inktober 2020 drawings on IG @andrewbartoncreative.

The prompts are pretty obscure (dig, dizzy, fancy), so it’s a good exercise for the right side of the brain. Some days are easy. Some days I’m crunched for time. Some days nothing comes to mind, or I just don’t feel creative. Those are the days when the magic happens.

You hear authors and comedians talk about their commitment to a daily writing practice. It’s the same principle. Starting around the second week of the challenge, I hit a wall. I have literally nothing interesting, original, creative, or not-boring to put down on the paper. That feeling means (at least for me) that I’ve used up all my old tricks. It’s time to get out of my comfort zone. The pressure of the deadline forces me to seek new sources of inspiration.

Inktober is as much about showing up as it is about coming up with a good drawing every single day.

I’m not exactly sure how inspiration works, but here are some things that help me come up with Inktober (or client work) ideas.

  • Keeping a sketchbook. My trusty sketchbook is my ever present companion. It’s my favorite tool for getting my ideas down on paper. 95% of what I put in there never sees the light of day.
  • Reference photos. When I see something interesting or creatively stimulating I snap a photo and put it in my folder of “inspiring images.” 

  • Distract myself. For example, the prompt on Oct. 16 was “rocket.” I didn’t want to do a cliche image of a rocket, but I was having trouble thinking of something interesting. In the middle of the day, I went to the grocery store, and the word “rocket” was on my mind. I spotted one of those carts for kids … with a spaceship theme. I took a picture and it turned into the drawing above. 
  • Keep it simple. When I can’t think of anything amusing, I’ll go for simple instead. Like the one above. The image itself isn’t all that original, but I tried to create it in a different way, such as adding elements of pointillism or trying a different pen or technique.
  • Experiment and fail. Be willing to try something entirely new and different. And be OK with the results — good or bad. Failing isn’t fun, but it’s how we learn and grow. I definitely missed the mark with several Inktober drawings when the ideas in my head didn’t quite materialize. I’ll let you decide which ones fall into that category. 🙂
  • Add a twist. Do something expected but add your own twist or an unexpected element. The Oct. 13 prompt was “dune.” I went expected (desert) but added something unexpected (a hobbit from one of my favorites, “Lord of the Rings”). 

Participating in Inktober is one of my favorite creative pursuits. I’m challenged daily, and I tend to discover something new. Above all, I like how deadlines produce results. 

Have a great week,


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