How to Cultivate an Idea Notebook
A turn through Leonardo da Vinci’s personal notebooks is a glimpse of his genius and inspiration. He used notebooks to capture observations, to work out his theories, to practice and improve his art, and to develop his ideas.
His pages jump from anatomy to military arts to zoology, botany, geometry, mathematics, aeronautics, astronomy, hydraulics, mechanics, optics, religion, architecture, literature and the properties of water, rock, air and light.
They include drawings, musings, inventions, observations, detailed notes, and thought processes.
He experimented and then penned his observations, experiences and deductions of why things worked the way they did.
Sometimes he even wrote his notes backwards.
His mind did not work like most people’s.
The Idea Notebook is Not New
Artists use sketchbooks to play with ideas, work out angles, perfect images.
Writers use notebooks to capture ideas, word combinations, observations, emotions and to outline stories.
Musicians use notebooks for the same purposes.
Their notebooks are treasures.
I am immersed in creative endeavors.
I work as a marketing consultant — which requires a constant stream of creativity.
My hobby is writing novels and blog articles — which requires a different, but no less intense, kind of creativity.
So I keep an Idea Notebook close at hand. I keep it in two forms — a hard-copy version and a phone version.
I capture my thoughts, ideas, observations, concepts, well-worded sentences, overheard conversations.
I collect images of stunning artwork, beautiful design, interesting products, clever ads, web pages and apps.
I video or audio record.
My Idea Notebook grows thicker and thicker as I drop in scraps of paper, Post-It notes, and images that inspire me — that get my heart racing.
Quality creativity — no matter the source — gets my heart racing. And inspires my own creativity.
A work of art, which did not begin in emotion, is not art.
— Paul Cézanne
But none of my notions that find their way into my Idea Notebook are fully baked.
I kind of like that they aren’t fully baked.
I don’t organize these ideas by any fashion. da Vinci didn’t organize his thoughts. They were recorded as they developed or flowed.
As I work on a project involving creativity — whether for my work or my hobby — I turn to my Idea Notebook again and again like a childhood friend.
Some parts of my scratchings may end up in a manuscript or on a client project.
Some may only spur new ideas.
Some, I reject for the moment.
My Idea Notebook is my collection of initial rejects, if you will. But it is also an incubator for my creativity.
I cherish the rejects, because I’m always looking ahead to the next scene, the next manuscript, the next blog article, the next client project.
They may come together like constellations in unexpected combinations.
They may yet spring to life.
My rule of thumb: Reject for the moment, but don’t discard.
Keep capturing. Keep reviewing. Keep developing.
Sometimes You Need a Little Creativity Boost
My free eBook might just help:
I use these exercises to keep the juices flowing — in myself and in my clients. (I am a marketing consultant, after all.)
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