A few weeks ago, inspired by my desire to reclaim my sketchbook usage from the acres of business meeting notes taking over its pages, I set out on a short walk to the local art & craft store. With the treaspassing fickleness of Goldilocks, I had been through many sizes and shapes of sketchbooks in the previous months. My intention now, was to return to my visual, idea exploration roots in the soon-to-be-found, Perfect Sketchbook.
With the precision of a visual thinker and one who obsesses over paper, I had been mulling it over for weeks. I wanted a sketchbook that was at least 8.5 x 11, thin rather than thick for ease of carrying, have a hard cover, rich smooth pages possibly perforated, a pocket and an elastic closure for when I abusively stuffed things inside the cover.
Thirty minutes later, twenty of which had been spent comparing sketchbooks from the generous selection that crowded the long aisle, I was still not satisfied. The options existed but never in the right combination. I headed home, determined and stubborn and still without a sketchbook.
In the next few days, I hunted down sketchbooks during visits to book stores, paper stores, and art stores all without discovery of The One. It was beginning to turn into an exercise in over-thinking and (I began to scent) a procrastination tactic. There was a lurking left brain sense that only this Perfect Sketchbook would help me return to a sense of play and productivity. Not true, I said. It is only a vehicle, only a tool.
So I returned to my starting point in the aisle of the art & craft store that smelled satisfyingly like fresh paper and oil paints. The worn linoleum of the aisles was smooth and dusty under my soft-soled shoes. I worked my way back through the aisle, touching the textures of the sheets, the heft of the book in my hand, until I found it: a sketchbook very close to my dreamed up specifications. With its canvas cover, slim page volume and thick paper, I decided it would do just fine.
The lesson learned was not one of looking and not seeing (although that too is true) but of setting an expectation level that prevented me from quickly taking action. This idea that I needed The Perfect Sketchbook to begin my new mission, was a classic over-thinking tactic of believing in the tools more than myself.
When I came back to the aisle of the art store, I let myself experience the selection as it was, rather than projecting what I wanted onto it—which inevitably lead to nothing being the right fit. Similarly, sometimes when we are creating, it is easy to shut ourselves down based on an aspiration, rather than taking an idea from where it currently is and working through the many stages of action to make it into what you want it to be.
When I reconnected with my goal, I knew that it wasn’t about obtaining The Perfect Sketchbook, but actually reconnecting with my visual, curious, playful self on paper using the sketchbook. In stepping back to see the big picture of the goal, the elements of what would work opened up before me.
This experience was a nice way to see some of my behavioral and thinking habits and inspired some questions that may be of interest to you too.
• What artist tools do you use that make you feel more creative than others? Do these empower you or limit you in anyway?
• What ideas are you not putting into action because of lofty ideals? Is there a place that you could start teasing out the idea and be comfortable experimenting?
• Are you attached to a certain style of sketchbook or type of writing or painting tool? If so, what would happen if you swapped it out with something different? How would your work or thinking process change?
• Are there any points of a project where you are stuck? If you re-address your goal on a broad level, does it help you see beyond the sticking point?
If any of the above points resonated with you, take the time to try something different or step back and gain a different perspective. Write/draw/explore the answer in your sketchbook (of course!) Also, responses and sharing to the above questions are always welcome.