Creativity for $9.99

Posted on January 17, 2009




I get asked a lot how to start the creative process. How can I be more creative? My advice- buy a sketch/note book. Buy a cheap one for $9.99. It will be the best $10 you can invest in for creative process. I have found that the creative process is a messy, chaotic, and unpredictable. Creative ideas seem to come at the most inconvenient times- while you are driving, in the bath, or sleeping. I would be shocked to hear an artist say his/her best work comes on cue when they sit down in front of a blank page or canvas. Most of our work is an evolution or continuity of ideas strung together with seemingly random musings. I heard a great quote once: 

“Every project you are going to do, you have already started in your past”

Every day and every moment of you day, you must be prepared to capture the spontenious generating ideas down in your book. It might be drawings, phrases, a chorus, names, an activity, patterns, a verse, a color, or notes. I know it sounds inconvenient but get used to it! You won’t regret it. Regularly recording your randomness does two things:

  •  Helps remove the ‘self filter’ that we impose on ourselves. Like ‘that will never work’ or ‘no-one will like that’. You can unashamedly put down your thoughts no matter how purposeless they seem. When you later review them, you will probably discover the real building blocks to a future project, endeavor, or a new way to do things.
  • It loosens the ‘creative clogs’ of your innovation machine. The more you get out of your head the more room you have for new creative ideas. Sometimes you just have to clean out the refrigerator. Then when it comes down to ‘real’ creating, you will be ready because of the constant rush of new ideas.


When I get asked ‘what can I do to be more creative?’, I always ask ‘do you have a sketch book?’. All of the successful writers, artist, and musicians I know have developed the discipline (and I mean discipline!) of the sketch book.

You can write on random napkins but you wouldn’t want to accidently blow your nose into it. Let’s face it, I would rather have a clear nose than a clear mind.


Your sketch book is not a Bible or a holy relic. Go through them quickly, wear them out, and keep it raw. That’s how creativity is, chaotic and messy. Why? It keeps you from protecting your ideas and allows for a certain malleability in your work.


And finally, my appreciation of a sketch book goes beyond art- it’s personal. I think it is a great symbol of the unfinished work God has done (and is doing) in our lives. Within the on-going pages of my life are beautiful, ugly, selfish, and world changing ideas. I keep those pages of my experiences all together. It’s what makes me unique. It keeps me humble. It’s what makes me an artist.


OK, in overview, a sketch book is about:

  • Quantity not quality 
  •  Having fun
  • Spontaneity
  • Reflections