Inktober ends today and I’m glad I took the challenge. I learned some things about myself and building habits, things I already knew (but forgot) because I read about them in Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits — to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life. Here are the ideas I proved with my Inktober experience.

One of many hands I drew for Inktober; drawing by Kit Dunsmore

In her book, Gretchen Rubin says: “…the real key to habits is decision making — or, more accurately, the lack of decision making. A habit requires no decision from me, because I’ve already decided.” And she’s right.

Choosing my media and drawing subjects in advance made it easier to get started. I picked out my sketchbook and pen for this project before the month started, and I also made a list of things I would draw (my dog, my hand, my feet). Indecision about what to draw often slows me down, so having decided ahead of time kept me from wasting time that could be spent drawing.

I also drew my feet a few times; drawing by Kit Dunsmore

Another Gretchen Rubin idea: “…it can be helpful to keep a habit symbolically, even if we can’t keep it literally, to keep a habit in place.” Her examples include walking around the block when we can’t take our regular long walk or writing for just ten minutes when our usual writing session has to be skipped.

My version of this was setting a low bar. I decided that I would get credit for drawing for ten minutes, even if all I did was doodled. Most days, I drew a lot longer than this, but giving myself credit for doing “just ten minutes” made it easier to pick up my pen on days when I was feeling overwhelmed. The days I doodled helped me keep the habit going, even though it didn’t look exactly like I’d dreamed it would.

I only drew Dory a few times. She kept moving…; drawing by Kit Dunsmore

Gretchen Rubin is a big fan of scheduling things, especially the things we are doing for fun. Her motto that really struck me this month was “Something that can be done at any time is often done at no time.”

I realized I would have done better if I had scheduled my drawing time instead of just drawing when it occurred to me. Knowing when I was going to draw would have made things easier. More days than I care to admit, I did my drawing just before bed because I didn’t think of it until then. They are my worst drawings, because I was tired and often rushed to be done. When I let myself draw during the day, I was more relaxed and often did better work.


Lastly, I discovered that “What’s fun for other people may not be fun for me — and vice versa.” Lots of sketchbook artists use fountain pens for their work, but for me, drawing with a fountain pen is frustrating. While I love the flowing ink and varied line widths, I find them hard to draw with. I struggle to produce more than two values (white and black) so I find shading difficult or impossible. If I want to enjoy drawing more, I need to switch pens!

In many ways, Gretchen Rubin is my guru. I’ve learned so much from her about building habits and making choices that lead to a happier and healthier life. I need to remember I can apply her wisdom to anything I am undertaking, including a daily drawing habit.

How was your Inktober? What did you learn (or remember)?

16 thoughts on “How My Inktober Experience Proved Gretchen Rubin Right”

  1. This is a great post, Kit, and I have to read Gretchen Rubin’s book now. As I was reading, I kept thinking, “I should apply this to writing blog posts.”😁 I’m glad you enjoyed Inktober. I certainly enjoyed seeing your drawings. Thanks for sharing, and Happy Halloween!

    1. All her books are great, but Better Than Before is my favorite so far. I find something new to try every time I read it. It’s helped me do more of the things I really want to be doing with my life, which is a big benefit. And she’s so right about so much! Her ideas apply to all kinds of things, writing included. Happy Halloween to you, too.

    1. It’s a great way to work on a daily drawing habit. And if you make it simple and easy, it’s actually fun. But I found it really hard to post my work; knowing I needed something “good enough to show” made it harder to draw.

      1. I can totally identify with that final point Kit, we are often our own worst critics. I loved you drawing of the hand by the way – I’m fine with buildings and flowers but humans and animals need a lot of work for me!

      2. My secret to drawing hands in 3 words: practice, practice, practice! I drew my hand almost every day in October and I definitely got better at it.

      1. For me, a low bar makes it easier to get started. Once I get going, I often do more than I intend. But if I plan on doing more, I’m less likely to start.

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