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Sketchbooks Are Not Precious

For a long time, I treated my sketchbooks like precious treasures. I had separate books for different projects or different kinds of drawings. This led to me having about 5-7 different sketchbooks at any given time. I’d erase mistakes or even rip out pages when a sketch didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.

This is an insane way to treat a little bundle of paper with some staples in it.

Sketchbooks aren’t a place to show off. They’re a place for you to get things out of your head. Nothing more. Realizing that sketchbooks were not precious was one of the best shifts I’ve made to my mindset.

“Nothing doesn’t go in here.”

On ep247 of Back to Work, Merlin Mann perfectly described how we should all be thinking about sketchbooks. His rule for all of his sketchbooks is that “nothing doesn’t go in here.”

Don’t let your need for perfection, organization, or intimidation stop you from diving in and writing all over that nice new sketchbook you just cracked open.

I get it. Looking at a completely blank sketchbook can be extremely intimidating. It almost feels wrong to start mucking up this beautiful book with my bad handwriting and weird sketches.

In the same way tacos are made to be eaten, sketchbooks are made to be filled with whatever nonsense you choose. It’s your sketchbook. There is no wrong answer when it comes to what you decide to put in it.

Sketchbooks should show a window of time

Up until pretty recently, I was using about 4-6 different Field Notes sketchbooks at any given time. I had a few for different projects I was working on, one for drawing, and one for writing down notes while I was in meetings. I probably looked a little unhinged when people saw me pulling out six different sketchbooks all rubber banded together.

The truth is that I should have just put all of those different things into a single sketchbook and simplified my life. You only need one sketchbook at a time. Instead of having a half-dozen uncompleted sketchbooks lying all over my desk, I should have just filled up one, wrote the date in it, and moved on to a new one.

I would much rather have a sketchbook that spanned every aspect of my life over the course of a single month than a bunch of different sketchbooks that each spanned a six-month period.

Ideas matter. Paper doesn’t.

I have forgotten more good ideas than I’d care to admit because I didn’t write them down. Quite a few of those good ideas got lost even when I had a sketchbook on me because it “wasn’t the right sketchbook for that kind of idea.” What on earth was I thinking?

Heck, I should have just written them down on my arm. You can always buy another sketchbook, but you can’t always find an idea again once you’ve lost it. I always carry my sketchbook with me now. I’m not going to let any random idea of mine slip away ever again.

Sketchbooks are not precious.

Get out there. Spill some coffee on it. Bend some pages. Cram it into your pocket.Or in my case, light it on fire for your blog featured image. The staples that hold your sketchbook together do not make this paper any more special than a piece of looseleaf you’d ruin in a heartbeat back in school.

Life is too short to have pretty sketchbooks.

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