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Blank Page Paralysis? Here are 14 Tips to Start a Daily Sketchbook Habit

I had always been a workaholic, sometimes bringing work home and staying up late into the night. But when my elder daughter was born, my busy 9 to 7 work-life turned upside down. In a matter of months, my daily routine changed. It now involved nursing, changing diapers, rocking the baby to sleep–on repeat! Pretty soon, I was sure I was losing my mind!

I binge-watched Netflix shows for a couple of weeks after delivery, only to come straight back to the drawing board (or, in my case, the sketchbook).

Now, if you’re thinking that I just whipped my paints and my sketchbook out and started creating masterpieces, that is far from the truth.

As I sat down with a mini sketchbook, I was filled with dread. What was I going to draw? What if things weren’t perfect? What if I drew a wonky circle? Oh yeah, I’ve had many sleepless nights over a wonky circle. That niggling dread I felt every time I opened a page in my sketchbook is what I call the Blank Page Paralysis.

If you’re laughing your pants off, I assume you haven’t been in my position, and I envy you 100%. However, since you’re spending your time reading all about my plight, chances are you are in the same boat, my friend. And if you are, worry not because I have a few tips to help you get over your Blank Page Paralysis.

1. Start sketching on whatever you find at hand.

If the sketchbook scares you, start with something else. This advice might seem counterproductive. But trust me, everything else can seem less intimidating than a sketchbook at this point.

Grab a pencil, find copier paper, tissues, or even brown paper bags and start making marks.

2. Find the sketchbook that's right for you.

Buying a sketchbook is like buying yourself new clothes. You will never be happy unless you are comfortable in them. They need to be 'just the right fit'. Before you splurge on an expensive sketchbook (I've been there before), ask yourself if it feels right for you. Flip through, hold the sketchbook in your hand, smell them if you want. You'll know if it is the sketchbook.

3. Don't go down the Pinterest/Instagram rabbit hole even before you start creating.

Have you heard the saying, "Create before you consume"? There couldn't be anything as true as this statement. While creating mood boards and gathering inspiration is a good thing, it can also be distracting. So, spend time improving your art rather than watching others improve theirs.

4. Start with making marks

Nobody said everything you create needs to be a feather in your cap. I've made this mistake before. I used to sketch to turn my sketches into a finished pattern or illustration. I was disillusioned and stressed trying to ensure that everything I did was perfect. I've learnt my lesson and now whenever I draw after a long time, I always start with marks.

5. Start simple–a pencil should do

Just as you should make marks without the pressure of creating a finished work of art, your tool of choice should also be unassuming, at least in the beginning. A pencil does just fine!

6. Experiment with more than a pencil

Regular sketching with something as unassuming as a pencil can help build some much-needed confidence. Once you get comfortable using a pencil, experiment with a variety of tools and media. Allow yourself to play and have fun.

7. Sketch what you see

Wondering what to draw? Go outside and take pictures of whatever catches your attention. Collect interesting-looking leaves, flowers, rocks even? Once you gather inspiration, come back and attempt to tackle the beast. If you don't feel like stepping out, you can always set up some objects on your table and draw them. Don't push yourself to draw from memory yet.

8. Keep a list of prompts

I have a thing for drawing prompts. I love collecting sketching prompts to fall back on during an artist's block. Prompts are great at getting your creative juices flowing when stuck in a rut. Some art challenges even provide you with unique yet in-demand prompts that can help you build your portfolio.

9. Set aside time for sketching

How do you cultivate a habit? How do you remain consistent? For me, what works best is setting aside time for my practice. Start with 10-15 minutes at the same time each day. Gradually increase the sketching time based on your convenience.

10. Declutter your workspace

A messy desk is my worst enemy. I am not a cleanliness freak, but I love an uncluttered desk. Granted, today I work with my daughter's carrier on my table, but I would like to change that as soon as I can. The more organized I can keep my workspace, the better I can concentrate on my art.

11. Stop creating everything for Instagram

Or Facebook. Or TikTok. I have a love-hate relationship with social media. There, I said it. I admit I have made good friends on social media. But every time I try to create art for the sake of posting on the Internet, I suffer from burnout. I make my best art when I create for myself, even when I do the 100 day project.

12. Have a variety of sketchbooks

My ADHD brain often interprets daily sketching as a mundane activity. During such times I like to mix things up a bit. I own sketchbooks of different sizes. I keep the current sketchbook aside and pick up a different one. Sometimes a small change like this can keep things interesting. After all, nobody said you have to finish one sketchbook before moving on to another.

13. Enjoy the process

As much as we would like, not everything we create is frame-worthy. And that's okay. The fun is in enjoying the process of making art. Put yourself under no pressure to create a gem or even produce a finished piece of artwork. Let go of all preconceived rules and make art for the delight it gives you.

14. Be consistent

At the end of the day, the best way to face your fears is by showing up. Make it a habit. Take out that sketchbook or loose sheets of paper and draw every day, even if for 10 minutes. The key to getting over the fear of a blank page is consistency.

As you can see, however daunting the blank page might seem, building a regular sketchbook habit is possible with just a few changes (or additions) to your schedule. Start small and then gradually increase the time you spend on your daily practice. Or continue on a small scale, no one's judging! Be gentle with yourself if you try for a few days only to give up. Give it a shot after some time has passed. As with all habits, maintaining a daily sketchbook can take some time, but once you do find your groove, it'll be here to stay.

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