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One of the comments in Walter Issacson’s biography of Da Vinci really stood out to me. He mentioned that Da Vinci grew up in a notaries’ household so he had access to paper and experience in notetaking, but paper was a precious commodity for him so he filled every part of paper with sometimes seemingly disconnected ideas.

These seemingly disconnected ideas, maths formulas next to drawings, might explain his creativity and how he saw the world differently from other artists.

That reminded me of how Austin Kleon’s recently described his studio.

My studio, like my mind, is always a bit of a mess. Books and newspapers are piled everywhere, Pictures are torn out and stuck on walls, cut-up scraps litter the floor. But it’s not an accident that my studio is a mess. I love my mess. I intentionally cultivate my mess

Creativity is about connections and connection are not made by siloing everything off into its own space.

Austin KleonKeep Going

After reading a call to arms like that, I made sure to use my commonplace book more freely. Quotes don’t have to stay separated and gaps should be filled.

My pricy Leuchttrum notebook is a beautiful mess.

  • There is scribbly handwriting next to intentional penmenship practice exercises.
  • There are quotes next to summaries of blog posts.
  • There are lists of podcasts I’d like to see next to sketchnote icons I was practicing.

In the feature image you can see the first page of my latest notebook. I usually make it a page to test pens and see how they work on the paper but sometimes I try and come up with a clever word or something. I made a mistake while writing and that worked out even better.

It’s taken me a long time to get over the notion that a beautiful notebook should only contain fancy, good looking items but now I relish ruining a good notebook. It’s the only way I can get myself to use one.

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11 Comments

    • You know, I love trying to do fancy stuff and a bit of fine penmanship on Instagram…but I totally get finding it all a bit too much. Did you see Ryan’s recent post about returning to basics? I think fancy is fine, as long as it doesn’t get in the way.

  1. Chris

    I’ve been writing Morning Pages in an assortment of A5 notebooks. Only recently have I started to draw, write poetry and be more relaxed in what I’m doing. It’s great; and I feel like I’m using the notebook for what it was always intended; namely, to experiment and make a bloody big mess.

    Best wishes
    Julian

    • I tried (aka didn’t really try but did a couple of times) morning pages and maybe I should give it another go without the guidelines! Thanks for the inspiration, I just quickly checked your site, I’d love to see some samples of these “big bloody messes”

  2. I feel this on a level. I am part of a whole lot of “Bujo” groups and a lot of them are almost afraid to use their notebook once they crafted the ‘perfect’ layout that took them 2 hours to write with all 1,000 of their tombows.

    Meanwhile I’m over here with my dinged up LT (ever notice how it retains every scuff mark???) with whole pages scribbled out, words scribbled out because even I couldn’t read that, and layouts that are stark and minimalist compared to theirs. Oh, and black ink because I totally gave up on gel pens when any pen handy is pretty much my motto.

    • “The best pen is the pen you have with you” I think we make that a thing. I’ve never really got into Bujo partially because it felt a bit too asthetic focused (though I’m reading Ryder’s book now and enjoying it).

    • I’m totally with you on the first page. I love the “test page” because it’s really useful so you don’t even have a “oh but I can’t ruin this page” mental block (well I don’t) though I also like putting stupid quotes or random words just any old junk really.