How to “Sketch Book” Your Way Out of A Creative Slump

By Aileen Swansen in Art Business Advice > Motivation

At one point or another, I think everyone feels like their time is being stretched. Work, family, random events you can’t get out of, and even everyday commitments can leave you feeling a little creatively zapped.

In my own life, I experienced a slow wake up call that my creativity needed a boost.

I took a job out of college unrelated to my field, but I still wanted to be creative when I could. Soon, I realized I missed it, so I found another job that would allow me be creative more often. After a year of doodling away, I knew I needed to be in an environment with others like me who felt the same way. So I returned to college and it was the best decision I’ve ever made!

While I don’t think my Moleskine sketchbook told me outright, “Hey missy, what are you doing?? You need to follow your dreams gurl!! Love ya!” I did realize at some point that I couldn’t live without sketching. . . and I needed to make time for sketching no matter what else I was doing.

Moleskine sketching notebook filled with sketches

Even if you’re not like me and you already have a creative job, sketchbooks can be an amazing way to de-stress and express yourself. They can be a visual diary of events or an exercise to improve your drawing. More importantly, it can be an incredible tool for unlocking the ideas swirling around in your head, trying to get out before someone else has them.

Here are some suggestions for “sketch-booking” your way out of a slump:

1. Don’t be precious

Forget everything you see online of sketchbooks filled with perfect pages. That doesn’t make your sketch-booking abilities any less valid. After a hiatus, it’s normal for you to be a bit shaky, but who cares? Who has to see your work? Leave a page blank, a drawing unfinished, or scratch over something you don’t like. . . it’s yours to use as you see fit.

2. Give yourself help

There are some amazing books that can help spark creativity without the pressure to be perfect. Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith is a fantastic resource for getting back into drawing, or even starting for the first time.

Another great book by Keri is Guerilla Art Kit or This is Not a Book.

These books will teach you how to “let go” creatively as well as helping you find new mediums to work in. More importantly, they’re just fun! If you’d like a more de-stress type of kick start, try a coloring book (they’re very popular right now!) One of my favorites is Doodle Invasion by Zifflin and Kerby Rosanes.

Another great idea is to set a theme for a book. Maybe you’ll only work in one medium for a whole sketchbook, or use one color, or only draw a certain object. Giving yourself strange but interesting rules will allow your mind to think of the many different ways you could draw using this restriction.

3. Take your sketchbook everywhere

Any free time you have is an opportunity to have a quick doodle session. Sketches made on the way to work (provided you’re not driving of course!) can create an interesting style or theme. Some of my favorite sketches were ones I drew on a bus.

Sketch of a knitted winter hat

Waiting for someone or even on your lunch break are both great times. You never know when a chance for free time will come to you! A small A5 book plus a pen or pencil is all you will need!

4. Leave the guilt behind

There will be times when you are run down or too stressed to even think about doing anything in your free time, and that is perfectly fine. Don’t feel guilty over the times you can’t sketchbook, paint or doodle. Unfortunately, life can get a little hectic at times and we all need to give ourselves more credit for doing what we can.

5. Look back at your sketchbooks later

This is the reward for your hard work! Looking back, you may see a lot of crappy pages, but you will be sure to find some gems. A drawing of your breakfast, a man who fell asleep on the bus, a funny character you made up, or maybe an idea you can turn into a project.

It really doesn’t matter if those gems are once every ten drawings, or every other page, because those sketches in your sketchbook were probably exactly what you needed to get over a creative slump and back in the swing of things.

For more about Aileen Swansen and her art, please visit her online portfolio.


We'll send you articles & tutorials right as we publish them, so you never miss a post! Unsubscribe here at any time.


This post may contain affiliate links.