I have a lot of potential. Sorry, I mean paper. In paper, there is potential. Each notebook I purchase is a possibility for representations of skill, progress, exploration. But where does it end?

When I buy a notebook, I buy into the allure of potential. Later, when I return to these sketchbooks and find them half filled and unfinished, I find myself facing the opposite of potential—the realized, the actual. The stark contrast between the two generates a certain amount of disappointment.

With potential is a pressure to preform. Why might the empty notebook, page, canvas, DAW, photoshop file etc, terrorize us in this way? I propose that our expectations of our output are too high. If we have not yet normalized enough the creating of things—either because we are too infrequent in our practice or because we simply can’t stand to place our skill level next to our tastes—we remain afraid. So we stumble along, buying into potential but not really taking action.

For myself, I’ve noticed that I am sometimes motivated by the idea of seeing my progression over time. This can mean idealizing a future where I have a shelf of sketchbooks, chronologically sorted, a partial archive of myself. But these are thoughts I have when I’m not drawing or creating. When I’m drawing or creating—taking action, really—I’m in the moment, in flow, listening to music and being present. No shelf of personal accomplishments in an unpromised future can replace that.

Taking action requires curiousity and playfulness. There is no time to be precious with things when you are exploring. As with other proficiencies, the best tools should be bought when you know you need them. At that point, you will see the finesse they bring — a new layer to the joy of your play and your exploration.

As a postscript, I’ve added my current on the go sketchbooks. I look forward to finishing all of these open projects and rethinking and reducing what my materials are once these chapters are closed.

On the go sketchbooks
Kind Purpose
Black Moleskine Doodling
Stillman & Birn 3x5 Alpha On the go studies
Traveler’s Notebook Combo Scrapbooking, Doodling, Poetry
Etchr Landscape 5x7 (1) Painting
Etchr Landscape Portrait (1) Painting
Midori MD A6(1) Note taking / project planning / doodling
Hobonici Techo Diary