The Notebook As Stimulant


I wanted to write about one possible remedy for staleness in your process or, perhaps, full-blown writer's block. Maybe as you write, whether it's an essay or a novel or a blog post, you find yourself slowing down. You sit there with your pen and paper or at your laptop looking at the hours pass and you only write three sentences of which you are ashamed or which bore you to death. If you're like me, perhaps you feel a lot of restless energy and eagerness to work, but you can't focus.

I would recommend keeping a notebook or journal for times like this.

Write whatever you want in it. Write about your life like a regular diary. Write about how much your boss pisses you off. Write fantasies about rear-ending that guy in traffic who cut you off earlier (don't actually rear-end him). Write ideas for novels, stories, posts and essays. Write about your frustrations over having nothing to write. Write about your excitement for projects to come, or what you hope to accomplish with current ones. Talk about your ideas on life, love and death. Become an armchair philosopher. Write as though no one will ever see it. Write fragmentary things, even pieces of fiction or notes to yourself, or love letters to someone or even to yourself. Write encouraging words to yourself and others.

The very worst that could happen is that you'll end up writing something you intended to write in another format. That's not bad for a very worst case scenario. Feel free to relentlessly plagiarize yourself. You might sit down to work one day and realize you did most of your work already just by jazzing around and doing what feels like goofing off, writing nonsense, which then turned out to make sense.

Turn your notebook into your own personal ritual of cleansing, fulfillment and stimulation. Write notes and excited words until that energy spills over into your other projects. Let go of as many format, aesthetic and structural inhibitions as possible. Your notebook is not the place for that. If you're a writer, draw pictures in between your notes to diffuse some of that inner tension. If you're a drawer or painter, write notes in the margins. Make up jokes and maxims to always remind yourself of certain truths about the creative process that speak to you. Transcribe vapid phrases which make you laugh that someone in a coffee shop said at the next table over. Find that sense of inner freedom, and keep finding it until you can allow yourself to work again.

If you can't work on anything else, make this activity your work until you figure it out. Do this as long as you would normally work on a real project, and when you're out of steam, consider your work done for the day. You did enough. Not only did you do enough, you did more than most people do.

An artist must allow him/herself a great many concessions in order to complete the arduous task of squeezing energy into a digestible format for others. It's important to find ways to make yourself work under the conditions and in the spirit that is the most agreeable to you.


Shane Eide