In May and June of this year, I participated in 2 monthly daily drawing challenges and created an Instagram reel of every piece. Here is what I learned and how it almost led to burnout.
I spontaneously decided to participate in Mermay challenge this year. It entails that you draw a mermaid every day for a whole month. It was actually pretty easy compared to another challenge I put on myself – doing a reel of every one of them and posting daily.
Doing something regularly is the absolute best approach is to improve in anything. So no wonder it helped me to grow my skill. It also helped me to see my blind spots or areas to improve. To example I saw once again that I need to focus on my anatomy and environments.
Surprisingly, the hardest part for me was choosing music for my reels! Sometimes I spent same amount of time choosing a track for 15 sec reel, as I spent drawing a Mermay! Ridiculous…
Another thing that surprised me is how I despised the posting process! Especially writing keywords.
If you wonder if the result was worth all the struggle, the answer is: kinda… Drawing daily was absolutely worth it, but posting the reels… not really.
For 31 days of Mermay, I gained around 100 followers, which is not that much for a month of daily reels in my opinion. Only 5 or so reels got semi-viral.
If you are an Instagram creator yourself and think that these numbers sounds bad, wait until I tell you about my next challenge 😁
Somehow I managed to finish all 31 mermaids and didn’t fall behind. Despite spending around 3-4 hours on it daily. Naturally, that was the only thing I could do in my free time, and it was my only priority outside of work and private life.
Finishing, gave me such a confidence boost that I decided to go in for another monthly art challenge but change the rules a bit.
One of my biggest struggles in art is environments.
I haven’t practiced them enough to be able to draw them from imagination and I’ve been quite hesitant to practice them because of how overwhelming it feels for me.
But in June I decided to challenge myself publicly, study environments daily and document my journey in Instagram reels. To minimize the risk of burnout and lack of time, I reduced the amount of time I spent on each study and reel to 2 hours.
I ditched the “filming small bits and edit them to the music” approach because it distracted me from the drawing process. And instead, I started to record voiceovers for the procreate timelapses. That was a good opportunity for me to practice speaking for the audience, even if it was just a recording.
Interestingly enough, this took me way less time than mermay reels. Yes, even with script writing, recording, editing, and choosing music.
I was also surprised how recording voiceover with scriptwriting took me less time than trying to record something on the fly.
The amount of improvement in my drawing skill was immense! I learned how to study an environment instead of just copying. I started to notice more how perspective, light and textures work in real life. I learned to digest a reference through me and put out a heavily stylized piece that was truly mine. I could do all that with characters, but never with environments.
By the middle of the challenge, I started adding characters to the scenes and tried to tell a story. And in the end, I felt a strong desire to draw completely from imagination. Something I never felt for landscapes before.
On the downside, audience engagement was almost non-existent. I gained 55 new followers with barely any likes and comments. I guess environments are just not as sexy as characters.
Unfortunately, I pushed myself too far again and had to stop all of my creative endeavors (except work) not to burn myself out. So I didn’t finish the whole month. But daily drawing was worth it. Can’t say the same about daily reels, though.
What did I learn?
My biggest lesson is that when drawing a complete illustration (even quick one) and creating a reel daily, I don’t have the energy or time for any other creative output. Which is obvious, but my brain always thinks that I can slap big projects on top of everything else and just do more 🤦♀️
My second lesson is that I love drawing and even ok with creating reels, but I really, really hate posting it, and that I don’t have capacity to post on multiple platforms at once. Being active on social media drains an insane amount of energy from me. 💀
The third lesson is that, apparently, my brain wants to complete a project in one go. And that’s why I find it easier to post daily rather than doing something bigger (like a YouTube video) and post once in a while, even if a bigger thing will take the same amount of time or less. 🤷♀️
What will I do differently from now on?
To apply my first lesson, I will be more mindful about taking on new projects and understanding that saying yes to something means saying no to something else. One project in, one project out. I can’t just magically do more.
For the second lesson, I will try to batch (doing similar things together) all my reels for a week in 1 day and maybe even delegate or automate posting.
For the third lesson, I will need to train my brain that it’s ok to leave a project or a task unfinished and continue later. I will leave my tasks half-finished on purpose, which I dread because I feel that I can never trust myself. And then, I will force myself to pick them up later and finish, proving that I can do that.
By practicing something deliberately and often, you engage in neuroplasticity and change your behavior.
Will I do something like that again? I don’t think so. But do I regret it? Definitely not!