Ask The Desk: Notebook Block

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Following my post last week on Keeping a Notebook, reader Barbara asked:

I have notebook block. Not writer’s block, I write but on the backs of envelopes, receipts, those damn cards that fall out of magazines, etc. I own about two dozen notebooks of all types and sizes but I cannot bring myself to write in them.
Has anyone else experienced this? Any ideas for breaking through?

My recommendation for you, Barbara, is to find a notebook that you don’t think is precious. Don’t start keeping your spark book or grocery lists in a handbound leather journal purchased during a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Venice (I should know I have one still in its waxy brown paper bag wrapped by the creator).

If you think your “good” notebooks should only have really good stuff in them, buy a cheap notebook or something that is easy to replace like a kraft Field Notes, a plain black Moleskine or even a wire-bound notebook from your local office supply store. When I think I may just be writing garbage for work or doodling my way through meetings, I grab a classic composition notebook with the black marble cover. I can pick one up at an office supply store or drugstore for less than $3. Maybe tape or staple some of your envelopes and receipts into your notebook so your new book is not pristine?

If your goal is to have a notebook full of brilliant stories and observations, remember that we all have to start somewhere. I recommend checking out Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way to learn about Morning Pages and to help overcome the blank page.

Best of luck and I hope you just dive in!

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  1. I have the same problem. Field Notes notebooks have helped. They’re small and feel less precious, but they’re still unique and fun…perfect combo. I keep all kinds of lists in mine, and will start journaling in one TODAY! Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  2. For me, it is often simply the act of starting a new notebook that is the hardest. And once I have at least one thing written in there, it’s easier to fill the other pages. To get over that, I often start a notebook by writing a test page of all of my pens and inks. Or you could try writing a favourite quote on the first page.

  3. Thank you very much! It’s a real problem for me, I’ve always been plagued by a weird form of perfectionism. Not that I’ve ever done anything in my life anywhere near perfectly but I find that first mark the hardest.
    Years ago I had an art teacher who would stand by my easel, grab a brush and put a swath of oil paint down the center of my canvas to mobilize me.
    I love the idea of stapling some of my scraps into a fresh notebook and I like the quote idea as well. I have at least a dozen Moleskine notebooks but I think I’ll begin with a very inexpensive wire-bound Mead. (even the Moleskine intimidate me at this point)

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