How to fill up those fancy sketchbooks you buy and collect but never use

When Carrie Bradshaw sat down to fill up her diary every night, she made it seem pretty easy. But if you belong to the majority of us who enjoy purchasing those beautifully bound pieces of paper more than filling them, we’ve got a problem guys. We see a beautiful diary, get attracted to it, and fall in love with it and then end up getting it home. We have this new found hope, that this time would be different; that this time we would actually fill it up with the most creative and fancy things possible. But soon the enthusiasm fades away, reality sinks in and we end up being the lazy hopeless beings we are. So then we make a promise to ourselves that the next time we see these pretty things, we will keep ourselves strong and resist the urge to buy them. But I guess we all know what happens. We come back with another new diary. And this way, the vicious circles goes on. 

So if you are like a lot of us, it’s time we make a change my friend. Why, you ask me? Because these beautiful pieces of art aren’t going to fill themselves!

1. Create a ‘Portal Notebook’

Meadowlark's Journal: "A page in my Sketchbook Project 2013. I cut a hole in the page so you can see the girl’s face. Maybe she is looking into an aquarium."

Meadowlark’s Journal:
“A page in my Sketchbook Project 2013. I cut a hole in the page so you can see the girl’s face. Maybe she is looking into an aquarium.”

Cut holes of various shapes and sizes on each page of the notebook. Create vivid backgrounds or illustrations on the remaining portion of each page so that as you turn the pages, each hole seems to enter into a new portal of creative imaginings.

2. Scribble your way to a masterpiece 

"Portrait of a Woman by Richard Feynman" Notice the scribble of unruly curls!

“Portrait of a Woman by Richard Feynman”
Notice the scribble of unruly curls!

Pick up the crayon nearest to you, and scribble away like a toddler. After you’ve unleashed the randomness of your mind onto paper, take a moment to plunge into your creative side. Visualise the scribble taking form of something familiar, and doodle around it to create a sketch.

3. Spill your morning coffee

Illustration by Austin Kleon

Illustration by Austin Kleon

Yes, you heard that right. Splash plops of your coffee onto pages of your sketchbook to create unusual shapes and patterns. Draw over them and voila, you have a perfect piece of artwork!

4. Call-outs!


Create your own dialogues between God and Adam or Napoleon and his horse. The possibilities are limitless!

Cut out photos of people/animals from old magazines, newspapers and paste them in your sketchbook. Draw speech bubbles around them and create hilarious dialogues for a mini comic strip.

5. Intertwine words with music


Eleanor & Park playlist

Creating playlists or soundtracks for the books you read is one of the most creative ways of visualizing the text and connecting with the story on an emotional level. Pen-down the songs you associate with your favourite books!

6. Draw your dream

Alice in Wonderland by Lisbeth Zwerger

Alice in Wonderland by Lisbeth Zwerger

Bet you’ve got some really iridescent dreams clogging up your mind. Well, why not splatter them out on paper? Try re-creating the images you see in dreams onto the pages of your sketchbook, and create your very own dream journal. You can either draw or write, or do both! 

Go seize your sketchbooks before they yellow away and crumble! Years later, looking back at these diaries you filled up will give you the most surreal feelings in this world. The way we see it, it is amazing way of self-preservation. Like Will Self said, “unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.” 


Written by | Vanshika Sethi and Arushi Mathur

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