Blinktober 2023 || A Summary & Learnings

October is a month of challenges in multiple creator circles. People participate in month-long challenges, set goals, share their updates, and cheer each other up. It is a very motivating time and inspires me to do more as well.

For me, October is the month of Blogtober and Inktober since I’m in both the blogging and artist circles online. I participated in Blogtober when I was a year into blogging and didn’t after that because, for some reason, I’m always in a blogging slump around October.

This year, I got into a slump a little earlier and I was trying to get out of the blogging slump by the end of September. October arrived at the right time with its challenges. I came up with Blinktober and committed to it literally on October 1st. And I had a lot of fun!

what is blinktober?

I wanted to do either Blogtober (blogging every day) or Inktober (drawing every day) but I wasn’t sure if I will be able to follow through due to my recent slump. When I tweeted about it, Resh and Sai replied with encouragement to just go for it. And Sai mentioned doing “Blinktober” (yes, he came up with the name).

Those two encouragements were enough for me to think about it seriously. I came up with my own rules and called it Blinktober. The rules of this challenge were:

  • Write 100 words for a blog post OR draw an object every day. I was mashing up the two challenges but I didn’t want to overwhelm myself so I committed to doing at least one of them every day.
  • Read a chapter every day. Since I finished my annual reading challenge, I’ve been working on reading “harder” books lately. My strategy has been one chapter at a time. I was already reading almost every day in September but I wanted to make sure that I don’t let reading go while doing Blinktober. Hence, I added this rule too. The rule allowed any format and any book.

I set small and precise goals so that they are easy to do but also don’t give me any leeway. For example, I couldn’t write 100 words for a blog post outline or do blog maintenance and check it off. I had to write 100 words towards the final blog post.

Similarly, I couldn’t do a part of a big illustration and count it towards drawing. I had to draw an entire object every day, even if it is a simple object.

I committed to posting updates on Twitter and Instagram every day to keep myself accountable and create a habit of creating in public and “showing my work”. I also wanted to contribute to the overall challenge mood of October and be a part of it with everyone.

The overall goals for the challenge were to beat my blogging slump and create more art.

As I said before, I was in a slump early this year and wasn’t recovering from it easily. Writing multiple times a week for the challenge would help me create a writing/blogging habit. I lost that habit due to the slump and needed it back.

I wanted to create a habit of drawing as well. I’ve noticed that I generally draw only when a new illustration is required for the blog. I don’t take out time to draw for fun or without a final drawing in mind. Through this challenge, I wanted to focus on drawing objects and not finishing illustrations. I wanted to try drawing different things, try different brushes, and have fun.

illustration of a person blogging in a cafe with an open book next to them and a cup of coffee

blinktober summary

I completed the challenge on all counts!

October saw me write or draw every day, read every day, and post updates about them on social media at the end of each day.

I was pretty sceptical about seeing the challenge through because October is generally a busy month. It is 31 jam-packed days. But this year, October was a little better. Work wasn’t too bad and we had Diwali in October so we got a couple of holidays. I also took a bunch of paid time off in the last week which allowed me to rest, do other stuff, and go on a lovely vacation.

Despite being easier than in previous years, this month had a variety of things happening which made me kind of learn how to incorporate Blinktober into my routine.

The first thing I did was set up daily reminders on my phone to share updates on social media. My reminder was set for 9 pm which is late enough for me to have done my challenge for the day but early enough if I forgot to do it.

That timing worked really well. I didn’t always require the reminder but was helpful when I needed an extra push to get it done. Some days, I would snooze the reminder for an hour or more and finish the challenge just before midnight. Some days, I would finish it in the morning but post updates only at night to form a routine.

To share my progress and keep it consolidated, I made a Twitter thread and extended the thread every day with new updates. I also pinned it to my profile to make things easier for me and showcase my work to anyone visiting my profile. You can check out the entire progress Thread from the below Tweet.

I also screenshotted every day’s progress Tweet and shared it on Instagram Stories. Somehow, I found more motivation by sharing on Instagram because I could see the number of views and it made me feel like my shares were worth it. Even if people didn’t engage with the story, them seeing it was enough.

And of course, whenever anyone interacted with my updates on Twitter or Instagram, it motivated me to keep doing the challenge.

Here’s a summary of how much I got done through the challenge:

  • 11 books were finished and 4 were in progress when the month ended. Check out my reading wrap-up to know my reads and quick reviews of them.
  • Published 3 blog posts and was in the middle of another one when October ended. Considering I posted only one post in August and September each—wrap-ups, that too—this was a big improvement.
  • Finished 7 illustrations. One of them was a collection of my favourite things in life like candles, my earbuds, onions, scrunchies and more. I used that to draw an object on the days when I didn’t have a proper illustration in progress.

I am really happy with my blogging progress. I had been in a blogging slump since August and found it hard to write the final blog post even though I had enough ideas. I would get intimidated by the empty WordPress editor. I would also put off writing because I couldn’t find enough time to blog at once.

By having a goal of 100 words—which is easy for me to achieve—I broke through my slump. I could write 100 words in about 10 minutes and leave or I could continue. More often than not, I continued writing because I had already started.

Earlier, I used to write in huge chunks. I would block out an hour or so and write over a hundred words easily. When I couldn’t get back to that after the slump, I felt dejected. Blinktober helped me get over that by normalizing a different writing routine.

Since I focused on writing only 100 words a day, I couldn’t get dejected for not writing 1k words or finishing blog posts in 3 days. I let myself ruminate over my words and take my time writing them. When I did write more, I would take breaks every 10 minutes or so.

Even now, I don’t write as smoothly as before. I don’t hammer out hundreds of words without realizing the passage of time. I miss being in that writing zone and I’m sure I will experience it again. But until then, I will continue to write 100 words at a time. The point is to keep writing. It is better to write little by little than wait for a good time to write all of it at once.

flatlay illustration of a wooden table with a potted plant, open book, sticky tabs, a phone, coffee, and airpods on it.

I’m not very happy with my progress in art. The major goal was to draw more, which I did. But I didn’t try many new things or draw purely for fun most days. It was fun to work on my “favourite things” doodle collage but drawing each object wasn’t that enjoyable. I mainly did it to check off the challenge.

There were only a few days when I truly had fun drawing (like when I drew the repeating pattern). And there were fewer days when I tried new brushes or styles (like with the scrunchie).

I had fun with a flatlay drawing too (the one right above). I used to do flatlays quite a bit when I started digital art and it is interesting to see how far I’ve come since then.

While my easy and precise goal of drawing one object a day was good to keep me drawing, it did not help me expand my drawing skills or have fun drawing. I now realize that the goal didn’t match my aim. I didn’t think too much when I created the rules because I did it last minute but the next time I do any challenge, I will think about creating rules that match my aim well.

I won’t do another art challenge this year. The year is ending soon and I’m already considering doing a blogging-related challenge (I’m planning it slowly and may do it in December ). I might do one sometime early next year. Let’s see where my priorities are then, lol.

illustration art of an ipad, ipad pencil, open book, an open laptop, and a mug of chai

The biggest thing that I realized during the month was that there is always time to work on hobbies. Even on my busiest work days, when I was obsessed with a Kdrama and bingeing it all day, when I was travelling or on vacation, I could find 30 minutes to do my challenge.

And in the end, 30 minutes is as good as anything. 30 minutes a day is better than nothing.

Often, 15 minutes of reading would extend to an hour. I would write 100 words and continue to 1k words because I was in the writing zone. I would start drawing an object and finish an entire (albeit simple) illustration.

My best strategy was to finish my challenge in the mornings. I’ve been waking up earlier lately and utilizing the extra time in the mornings to do various things. Finishing one or more things for the challenge in the morning before I started work was very helpful, especially on the days when I ended up working until late at night.

We can never say what unexpected things will take up our time at the end of the day but we can control our mornings. Doing what I prioritize in the mornings helps me be ready for the rest of the day.

I didn’t always do the challenge in the mornings. I procrastinated a few times and tied the challenge to other planned events sometimes (like drawing while listening to an audiobook with my book club on Tuesdays). But once I figured out that mornings were the best times, I tried to do it then.

The hardest days were when I was feeling sick and when I had a lot of work. Finding the motivation to do anything on those days was hard. If I wasn’t doing the challenge seriously, I would have definitely not done it on those days. It would have been fine—health is more important—but I spent the least amount of time possible on the challenge and somehow finished it.

On chill days and weekends, I did a lot more than required. I finished books, wrote, and drew. Those were really good days. Doing a lot motivates me to do even more.

illustration of a person typing on a pink keyboard with a pink mouse kept next to the keyboard

When I committed to Blinktober, I was worried about keeping it up for 31 days but time flew so fast. By the time I found my groove, we were already reaching the end of the month. 31 days is a significant timeline but since the challenge was pretty easy to do, I didn’t struggle too much.

I was actually disappointed that the month was ending during the last week. I could have done the challenge for another couple of weeks. The first few days after the challenge, I found myself wanting to read, blog, and draw. And I’m using what I learnt in October like the fact that mornings are the best. I’m currently writing this in the morning before work begins!

It is said that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Doing Blinktober has definitely broken my blogging slump. Writing for the blog has become a part of my routine again. And once something is a part of a routine, it is easier to keep up.

what i learnt from blinktober

By doing this challenge, I learnt a bunch of things that I should keep in mind for further challenges that I do. These learnings are specific to how I work but they may help you with your challenges as well!

1. set small, measurable goals

Setting goals that I could do in 15 minutes was one of the best things that I did. It could have been more if I had more free time but it was perfect considering my schedule. On the days I had more time, I did spend longer on them. But for the days when I was busy, it was easy to spend 15 minutes on the challenge and go back to whatever else.

Since my goals were small, I wasn’t intimidated by them as well. If my goal is to write 1k words, even if I have an hour of free time, I would think about the amount of effort it needs. For someone in a slump, that isn’t a good thought and I would procrastinate writing. Writing 100 words and drawing one object—even if it was just a leaf—was easy. I didn’t procrastinate on them.

2. do not keep flexible goals that can be “technically” checked off

I have a habit of taking the easier route to check off challenges and hence not doing what I actually set out to do. For example, if my blogging goal was to “blog every day”, I might have spent 15 minutes checking spam comments or outlining a post or something else instead of writing. My definition of blogging includes everything that I do for the blog, not just writing.

Making my goal to write for the final blog post was a smart move that trapped my future self into working for the main aim.

3. don’t set specific times, do the challenge whenever free

Having routines is great, I won’t disagree with that. They keep us on track with all the things we have going on. But I have noticed that if I decide to do things at specific times of day, it doesn’t work out most of the time. If anything unexpected comes up at that time, I become dejected even if I’m able to postpone and do it.

By keeping the entire day open, I do the tasks whenever I’m free and I work them around my changing schedule.

Honestly, setting tasks around times (unless they’re appointments or have to be done with other people) has never worked for me. I’ve noticed this from my bullet journal days. Props to people who use Google calendars to plan things but that wouldn’t work for me. I’ve tried and failed every time.

illustration art of laptop, mug and a plant

4. don’t be afraid to show your progress to others

After years of blogging and maintaining social media related to books and blogging, I’m not a stranger to sharing my work. I don’t do it as much as I could but I am not shy about it anymore. In the beginning years, I used to hide it from people I knew in real life too. It took me a while to get over it and I started sharing it with people.

There is no better motivator than sharing what you do with others. Especially on a social media platform. It keeps you accountable and starts conversations. People in your life will also know what you do in your free time.

Although I’m better at sharing now, I’m still not great at it. Only when I was drawing for Blinktober in front of a friend did I talk about my challenge and share my blogging Instagram account.

Sharing progress often motivates others to do their own challenges as well. During and after my challenge, I got several comments and messages about how inspiring my updates are. A friend asked for a summary and my thoughts on the challenges which is why I’m writing this post! Mek created a challenge for herself based on my Blinktober challenge too.

5. join in on public challenges, even if at the last minute

As I said before, I wanted to do Blogtober and Inktober and created Blinktober literally on October 1st. I had done no prior planning. Looking at people starting their challenges was a big motivator.

If I hadn’t thrown worries to the wind and jumped in, I wouldn’t have had such a good month and finished the challenge successfully. You never know how much you can do until you actually do it.

Whenever there are challenges going on around you like Blogtober, Inktober, NaNoWriMo, Non-fiction November, Blogmas, etc., join them! There are tons of other smaller challenges always happening like week-long readathons or 48-hour readathons. Keep an eye out for events and join them.

I’m pretty bad at doing this myself. I like going into things with a plan and, lately, I keep telling myself that I don’t have time or I’m too busy. I need to commit spontaneously more often.

As Resh wisely told me at the start of October:

6. feel free to tweak challenges to suit you

If any challenge or event sounds interesting and doesn’t fit your exact requirements, change the rules for yourself! Unless it’s a rigid thing where you have to submit your work (which generally does not happen), no one cares about what you exactly do as long as you participate and do something.

Let’s say you’re participating in Blogmas but you’re like me and don’t celebrate Christmas to blog around that theme every day. Blog about what you want and continue to use the event name and hashtags! (I’ve actually done this before.)

Trust me, no one is going to call you out on not adhering to arbitrary rules. Join in, share your work with the hashtags, engage with others doing the challenge, and have fun.

Although I was doing Blinktober which wasn’t strictly either Blogtober or Inktober, I (think I) was considered a part of both the challenges by the people around me online. And there was only encouragement from everybody.

7. don’t pause at the end of a section

Recently, I’ve been trying out a new method to sustain my reading habit where I don’t end at the end of a book and instead read a page of a new book before stopping. It has worked wonders.

I tested out the same theory for writing and it helped so much! Generally, I pause writing blog posts at the end of a section. During Blinktober, I made sure to write at least one sentence in the next section before closing my laptop even if the sentence isn’t a good one. I usually know what to write about next because I outline my posts beforehand.

The next time I start writing, I have a place to start from. It is easier to start writing from the second sentence than the first sentence. I already have the context and just have to continue the paragraph. If I don’t like the first sentence anymore, I change it and then continue. The point is to have something to continue from because continuing is easier than starting.

I want to figure out a way to use this method for writing blog posts overall (starting a new blog post immediately after ending one) but since I usually decide on my next post a day or so after the current one goes live, I’m unable to do it yet. My writing process is outline -> write -> publish -> come up with the next idea -> repeat. I also take a break between posts.

If I do a bit of prior planning, I can use this method for blog posts. But it will take a while to change my routine to include planning multiple posts ahead. I’ll work on figuring this out in time.

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