Lessons Learned from #Dungeon23

It’s 126 days into #Dungeon23, and I’ve stuck with it so far. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely had some gaps in there where I missed days or worked to fill in those gaps from before. Nevertheless, I’ve stuck with it so far, and it’s been quite a rewarding challenge.

A main thing that I’ve really picked up from it is to be less precious with what I produce. I’ve always implicitly wanted to produce something that I felt proud of. Years back, I had a print hanging of an image I’ve long since lost—it spoke of how people who produce art tend to be disappointed by what they produce and suggested that happens because we have a clear vision of what we want and what looks good but often just lack the physical skills to produce that. It suggested to focus on the good taste rather than the outcome as a means of overcoming that. That’s something I’ve started to understand better now with #dungeon23: I just don’t have the time to make everything look solid or to write excellent prompt for every room—there’s just no time for that! As a side-effect, I’ve become more accepting of all the ink smudges, bad lines, and little cover-ups that have come with this quick drafting challenge. It feels great.

As a corollary to the previous, I’ve also noticed that creativity is definitely something that can be trained. Now, having done about four months of (mostly) daily drawing, I notice that I can more quickly make decisions about my drawings. This morning, I just glanced at the last room of this week and immediately decided it was a storeroom that had basic materials and supplies, that there’d be barrels and crates, and a table for sorting. Being less precious with what I want to achieve meant I doubted less and just put pen to paper and worked as I went. As a result, there’s something on paper rather than a lot of notes.

Lastly, I’ve found how to spark my creativity. As I knew before starting #dungeon23, I’m terrible at a blank page. I’ve tried various methods know of setting up a week’s dungeon: doing nothing and just drawing day-to-day; using ChatGPT as a prompt for writing; and using various prompting tools from blogs, books, and RPG systems. I’ve found that the latter works well for me. The Tome of Adventure Design has been particularly helpful by offering as many or as few prompts as I may need to get going. Once I have those first couple of ideas going, my mind starts going.

The biggest benefit from this is that I’ve seen these tendencies now translate to other parts of my life as well. With 3D printing, I more quickly move to printing a prototype now. In organizing my desk, I just do something that works for now (I can always adjust later). In my note-taking, I’m less precious as well: I stopped caring if I use multiple pens on a page or smudge my writing, as long as the note is down.

All-in-all, I can really recommend taking part in a challenge like this: it’s been tough but that has come with some valuable lessons.

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