Have you ever found yourself stuck, trying to come up with a creative idea? Having a notebook as a companion can help immensely!
A notebook, or commonplace book, is an excellent tool for generating new ideas and examining old ones with fresh eyes (vuja de). The commonplace book has been a staple for creative minds for centuries. This simple tool allows for a juxtaposition of words and images from a variety of different sources, a veritable kaleidoscope of ideas. Writing ideas gives one a source from which to pull. The best description of sketching I have ever come across describes it as ‘visual thinking.’ Keeping a commonplace book actually improves one’s thinking over time and could easily become one’s most valuable tool in navigating the world and generating ideas for projects.
- Develop Your Curiosity Like A Muscle: No, everyone is not creative, but everyone has the potential to be creative. The key here is cultivating a curious approach to life. View even everyday situations with a sense of creative exploration. Try writing basic ideas and drawing. Using both writing and drawing will reinforce ideas solidly while allowing you to contemplate a topic from multiple perspectives. Sketching an object, like a vase, does this as well. Sketch the vase from different points of view — focus on the interplay between light and shade as well as what changes with distance. You could also include a description of the vase to enhance this record of the experience.
- Link Hand to Brain: Write, draw, let the hand get used to moving about the page. Do not hold unnecessary amounts of information in the brain — put as much on the page as possible so as not to use up valuable mental energy trying to memorize a variety of things which can simply be put down on paper. Get used to seeing your commonplace book as an extension of your brain.
- Juxtapose Interesting And Unrelated Ideas — Non-Linear Thinking: In his excellent book How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Gelb emphasizes the importance of non-linear thinking in Leonardo’s notebooks. What we have in the case of Leonardo is his working through various problems, recording Latin words, jokes, and to-do lists (among many other things). He recorded observations of water and a countless number of inventions (yes, I’m sure some poor schmuck has actually gone through and counted the number of inventions but that misses the point). Leonardo wrote so many different ideas on pages in his notebooks, in part, so as not to waste paper. This method ended up benefiting him immensely because he was able to go back through and consider differing ideas which would otherwise not be brought together.
- Have An Idea Portfolio: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Go over ideas written before — words and images, quotes and observations. Each time is a new encounter. Ideas recorded out of pure interest one day may have practical value with respect to a project on the next. Renaissance philosopher Francis Bacon famously said “Knowledge is Power.” He wasn’t kidding. Knowledge, some entrepreneurs like to say, is potential power. Either way, it is better to bits and pieces gathered together in an ideas portfolio. Using mind maps, drawings, and putting concepts in your own word or linking them to your own experiences in life make the ideas themselves your own. We live in a creative age — the best age for creative individuals given the lowering access costs to platforms — an idea portfolio is a necessity in today’s job market.
- Track Improvement Over Time: If you don’t know how to draw, draw! You do not have to be anywhere near perfect. Your first drawings are the beginning of a journey of exploration in visual thinking. The same goes with putting your ideas on paper in words. Maybe you know what you want to say but not how to say it. Write your way through such struggles. Grappling with tensions in your mind alone is nothing compared with linking this to daily actions. This will naturally lead to improvements.
Pick up a sketchbook an make it a valuable companion.