What’s your creative outlet?

The reason I created thinksketch.com

As we get sucked more and more into our day to day jobs and chores, it is highly important to find creative outlets that keep your creativity alive and kicking. Here’s how I discovered (one of) my creative outlets and why I started Thinksketch.com

Rough books vs. Fair books
When I was in high-school, I remember that we had books for every class in which we wrote our assignments, etc. We were asked to have separate books that we called ‘fair books’ & ‘rough books’.

Fair Books’ were books that would be visible to the teacher and would be submitted to them for grading. These were the notebooks we were asked to use to take notes in during class and submit assignments in given to us after class. These books were the warehouses of all the knowledge we assimilated in class.

Rough Books, on the other hand were meant to be books that we used for our own personal use, that weren’t shown to teachers. These were the books where most students scribbled, doodled, explored their creative expression, whether it was writing poetry that came to them while day-dreaming or drawing portraits or caricatures of their classmates. These rough books were the studios of creative expression.

‘Rough books’ as studios of creative expression
Needless to say, the ‘rough books’ were often the most exciting to look at, as they always had exciting content.Unfortunately the rough books were never given as much importance and were often ignored or dismissed as childish explorations by both parents and teachers.
When I joined design school, one of the best things that happened to me was that I had the freedom to be creative in every possible way — even in the way I took my notes. I did not have to use ruled paper anymore and could use any pen and write in any color I wanted! — the rough book was the only book I had. In design school, these books were called ‘log books’.

As all design students, stationery was my weak spot (still is) and I started buying artsy sketchbooks. But then.. I faced another problem… these books pressured me to be ‘creative’. Now, I started feeling the pressure to make sure that every time I put my pen on paper, it had to ooze creative awesomeness.

Journals: A channel for everyday creativity
After giving it some thought, I realized that I felt intimidated by ‘putting ideas down on blank paper in beautiful notebooks with pristine white paper’. So I decided to make my own books. These books were made out of scrappy cheap paper but I had a sense of ownership over them because I had bound them myself. It was easy to get started with these books because they felt used and less intimidating. The books became a part of my life. I never went anywhere without them.

Overtime, I realized that journaling everything became a way for me to express my ‘creativity everyday’. As a design student, I was also a hoarder of all things that fascinated me, from bus tickets, to matchboxes, to coasters, notes people wrote to me.. everything. All of these things converged in my journals and were captured to be preserved as memories of the experiences I was having then. It was my analog equivalent of ‘checking-in at locations, updating my Facebook status, writing blog posts, storing messages from friends, writing restaurant & movie reviews, etc’.

It had become a part of my identity and people knew me for it.

Work, Distractions & Technology
Fast-forward a few years and I started working, working on a desk with my laptop, attending meetings — everything that one does to earn money on the job (even if it is a creative one). Meeting notes got boring and transactional as they did not mean much to me. New technologies replaced some of the functions of my journals and were far more efficient: Foursquare helped me remember places, Instagram helped me playfully capture my observations, Facebook helped me communicate with friends, etc. I was losing a sense of wonder in my everyday craft and felt the lack of personal creative expression.

Every now and then I noticed myself automatically taking notes in visual and creative ways. Everytime, I did, I always told myself to continue doing and pushed myself to be creative in note-taking whenever possible. These notes were a lot more exciting to revisit and were also a lot more insightful as they highlighted the parts of the talk, conference or event that resonated with me. Other people also complimented on these sketched notes and asked if they could be shared with them.

Introducing Thinksketch.com
For all of the reasons above, I recently started on a project called Thinksketch, an ongoing showcase of my notes and sketches in various notebooks across the years. This site was created in pursuit to bring creativity back into my note-taking and journaling (when I do it).

The hope is that having it hosted online, will make me more accountable, provide a platform to share my learnings and for others to learn from my documented experiences.