How to use a notebook as a creative tool


I’m not an analogue person at heart.

But I do use notebooks religiously, and only for creative purposes. Sparing notebooks for specific activities like this is a good thing, I think. It helps your mind to associate notebooks with deep focus and creation. This conditions your brain to go back to that contemplative space every time you turn a blank page on your notebook.

That's why notebooks are creative tools. They're helpful with self-discipline and excellent companions for any creative journeys.

So, here are some tips on how to use a notebook as a creative tool:

👉🏼Notebooks are for shitty first drafts, rough sketches and mind maps. 
Use your notebook to sketch, draft, doodle and brainstorm. Don't use it to refine, edit, finalise or execute. The refinement, editing, finalising and execution are the natural outcome of a creative process, but — believe it or not — they're not the goal of it and come much further along the way.

🤞🏼Notebooks are the tool, not the medium.
That's why you need to use your notebook instrumentally. Your notebook is there to serve you. It's the space for mistakes and accidents (hopefully some happy ones too), and you're encouraged to use it roughly, exhaustively, quickly and intuitively. So don't be precious with your notebook.

👌🏼Notebooks may bore you.
And that's a good thing. Boredom is a catalyst for creativity. Use your notebook to practice repetitive skills and build muscle memory. Use it for tasks that you often procrastinate on, without the luxury of escaping to the usual drugs like the internet.

✌🏼Notebooks are inspiring objects.
As tactile as they are, notebooks offer a multi-sensory experience that involves touch, movement, smell and sound. Other than being a totem for accessing that creative zone in your brain, those mortal, restricted objects are an inseparable part of the process by setting much desired physical and functional boundaries and challenges. So don't avoid them, cherish them.

👊🏼 Be an archivist.
Notebooks are cool because you can go back to the earlier pages and see the progress you've made along the way. That's the antidote to a common problem in creativity. The more you polish an idea, the more you lose the spirit of it. Your job as a good creative is to always find that balance between the raw idea and the refined execution. Your notebook will allow you to go back to earlier versions where you've found that sweet spot.  

🖖🏼 Worst ideas are sometimes the best ideas. 
Marina Abramovic talks about asking her students to come up with a number of ideas and to put them on a piece of paper each. She would then tell them to go through the whole stack and throw away all the ideas that they didn’t like anymore. She would then ask her student to hand her all the bad ideas. She says that often the best ideas are the trashed ones. Never cross anything off or rip off pages of your notebooks.


🤙🏼 Dedicate notebooks to ideas, not activities. 
Creativity is multi-disciplinary, and so are notebooks. Best creatives seek for ideas, and the execution is a natural result of it. So, don't spare notebooks to techniques, or activities, like this-is-my-writing-book, and this-is-my-watercolour-notebook, but dedicate them to ideas, like this-is-my-notebook-about-fun, and this-is-my-notebook-about-my-dark-side.


🖕🏼Every notebook is a diary.
Notebooks belong to their owners, not to the rest of the world. Not right away. Notebooks allow privacy to messy experimentation. That doesn't mean that a notebook cannot be the object of voyeurism, eventually. But the no. 1 purpose of a notebook is to create a safe space to hatch ideas. So respect that introverted, reflective period and care for the integrity of your notebook.


Elif Gurbuz