Using Paper Like Da Vinci

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.