Monday, February 1, 2010

Four Blank Books for All Seasons

I am a firm believer in all things cyclical. Like the seasons, my desk and work area have a tendency to mimic the progression of nature’s wild abandon through the seasons. Come spring, new projects are usually in the works. By summer, the file folders are full. And by the end of autumn, papers have piled up like so many stacks of leaves, along with notes, ideas, sketches on scraps of paper, articles and images to be housed and projects started only to become TBR (To Be Resumed) after the holidays.

So winter finds me in a desperate frame of mind for a clean slate, a neat desk and all things tucked away like the severity of a frozen landscape. My tendencies for organizing and mission towards a personal inventory (another thing ingrained in me from my eight years of retail) are slightly held in check by the amount of time I have to dig into them, but even if I have to work small (like drawers and file folders) the sense of well-being is immense. (I will confess to mind mapping the areas I am going to organize in the winter, which does prevent this from becoming a daunting and unrealistic task as I am too “creatively minded” to be a neatnik.)

Like the possibilities of the blank page, a fresh work area is like a launch pad for projects—especially ideas in progress. Part of my customized system of organizing includes four very important blank books where I store all the ideas, images and scrap-paper notes of inspired brilliance (which sometimes make no sense several months later and go in the recycling bin). It is a system I have had going for a few years, and it comes in very handy. Especially since, once the blank books are filled, I put them in the bookcase and can reference them later, when hunting for inspiration.

Here are the four all-important books: one is an image-based sketch and idea book, where I keep everything from drawings, to images that intrigue me to gift ideas and recipes (I cannot tell you how handy this is during the holidays). The next is a notebook for everyday plans, ideas, and raw thoughts. There is also my journal (in which I also put photos and mementoes) and the last is a notebook I reserve for any and all things that have to do with writing stories. The last notebook, by the end of the year, usually has become fat and lazy with plot twists and character sketches that get stuffed into it when I have to sacrifice my time for writing creatively. (If you are not a writer, I would still recommend this for any pursuit, whether it be painting, decorating, cooking, or even business ideas.)

If I was to recommend any of the above books as a must-have or a “start with this,” I would go for the imaged-based sketch book. You will never need to keep magazine around for longer than a month. Plus, over-time, it becomes a lush visual journey that tells its own interesting story and/or is usually good for some idea inspired lateral thinking and random connections.

For me though, just getting the desk clean and all the ideas sorted into their respective notebooks (with all the glue stick and tape that involves) gives me a sense of tying up loose ends. For the unfinished projects, or ideas that still make sense, it gives me an important overview of what projects I have to return to working on—usually when I have no excuses and more time (which sounds like a good topic for next time.)

Further Inspiration
I highly recommend having some sort of blank book in which to store images or things that make your mind light up. If you would like to use this as a creativity tool rather than an idea system, I suggest using it as Sarah Ban Breathnach does in her year-long meditation book, Simple Abundance. As part of the self discovery process, she calls it an Illustrated Discovery Journal and uses it to give insight into things that you may not recognize as points of inspiration, but will reveal themselves throughout themes emerging in the images.

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