Why art challenges work

Today’s November 30th and the end of NaNoWrMo. Individuals challenges themselves to write a novel in 30 days. During this month I challenged myself to write a blog post every 5 days. I’m glad that I did it, and I’m relieved that I finished it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever made it halfway through Inktober. Challenges are hard, they’re fun for the first few days, then they’re just work. I don’t judge anyone for quitting. The challenge is a personal challenge. The people who do it and get through are the people who want to change by the end. People who want to prove something to themselves. Challenges work and create change in interesting ways.

Social Pressure

The first way is social pressure. It works by committing to something in front of everyone. Then when you see everyone’s work around you to get to work yourself. Guilt isn’t a bad thing when it causes positive change. The point of the challenge is to grow, to get better, to push yourself. To often people want it because the attention and status. This doesn’t work very well, the #hashtags are crowded. It’s possible that new people will find you, it’s likely these are not the right people who are looking for your specific work. The social aspect is important. It keeps you honest and engaged.

Time Box

For NaNoWrMo the month of November acts as a time box. This challenge is for everyone who’s wanted to write a book, but never had the guts to try. It says, “Here take a month and write that book, look at all these other people who have done this”. Giving something a deadline helps you actually get it done.

Daily Work

The next reason that these challenges create change is the daily practice. When you start doing something everyday your mindset has to change. You adopt a professional posture. You show up and do the work no matter what. Even when you don’t feel like it. As Seth Godin puts it, “I don’t want an authentic surgeon who says, “I don’t really feel like doing knee surgery today.” I want a professional who shows up whatever they feel like, right?”

The trick of taking on these challenges is how will you keep this going after the challenge is done? You’ve set up this daily practice. You’ve made something in a month. Will you take these good habits and apply them forward.


I do a post every Friday morning about trying to make indie animation

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