Interesting about the smudging...I use q-tips, cotton balls and these little blending tip thingies I find at the art store for the early stages of my graphite drawings. Then I go back and put in the sharper shadows and lines after I have done the smudging. I might take an eraser to some of the highlighted areas as needed. Might be why I can work more quickly than say you (Kayty) and Toadflax. I can't imagine spending the time ya'll do on your drawings. I don't know if it's a form of cheating per say, but hey, I guess as long as the client is happy right? lol. But yeah, I rarely leave a drawing just blended without doing sharper touch ups. I used to blend "everything"
Anyway, back to the drawing posted here. Congrats on finally finishing a piece, but I agree it could use just that extra step of adding in the darker tones to really make it pop.