How to Steal Great Ideas… from Yourself!

One great reason to hold onto your old sketchbooks and art is the opportunity to steal great ideas from yourself. Let’s talk about how.

Your Old Sketchbooks are a Reminder

One great tactic I’ve used to catch good ideas (a David Lynch term) is to comb through my old sketchbooks. Each of your old sketchbooks is a snapshot in time. A visual reminder of a temporary creative period of your life. Each was filled up during a specific time, framed by your mood, your interests, your life experiences, your subject matter, and a myriad of other forces all converging on your life at that moment.

There is a certain magic in opening up your old sketchbooks and looking at them years later from a different vantage point. It can kindle, or rekindle a great idea that, because of your skill level at the time, made you unable to execute on.

Maybe you drew something out of your subconscious you didn't understand at the time, but is now made eerily clear through hindsight.

Or maybe the idea was just in seed form when you scribbled it down.

Your Old Sketchbooks are a Time Machine

Inspiration is a great time traveler.

One awesome thing about old sketchbooks is that they carry within them the seeds of great ideas.  Even if you didn’t know it at the time you drew them. A chicken scratch you scribbled on a scrap piece of paper seven, seventeen, or twenty seven years ago can trigger a great idea right now.

My freshman year of high school was one of raw creativity and an imagination that was firing on all levels. Maybe it’s because of my friends, or skateboarding, or discovering tons of new music (Any Operation Ivy fans out there?), or the fact that I became a raging action figure collector and frequented Children’s Palace and Circus World toy stores while they were still around.

Honestly, it was all of these things and more.

I frequently revisit the work I produced that year. I was untrained and undisciplined at the time. But this haphazard, unbridled year of creativity is still very much alive out there in the meta verse. 

Out of control imagination 15 year old death metal skater Tim Baron is still sending me messages from 1991!

Sometimes when you sketch, it’s random. Sometimes these passing thoughts, or illuminated moments seem throw-away. Later, (sometimes much later) a random chicken scratch you did 15 years ago may have grown up while you weren’t looking.  Now it’s presenting itself to you as a full grown concept.

Your Old Sketchbooks are a Garden

Consider your old sketchbooks a garden. You planted a lot of things over the years. Life goes in seasons and some seasons are like a long winter. While many of the things you’ve planted in your sketchbooks died during that winter the really strong ideas will have survived the brutal arctic tundras of life.

Sketchbooks are a fertile seedbed of inspiration filled with the ripe fruit of ideas inviting you to pluck them. Those great ideas want to make themselves known to you.

Your Old Sketchbooks are calling you

It was the Summer of 2003. I had been married for three years and we’d just had my amazing second daughter. I'd been working in a cubicle for three years. I didn't have much direction with my art at the time.

That night, I sat down at the kitchen table with a stack of decade old sketchbooks and drawings. I looked at the multitude of insane characters I had effortlessly created. I was naive, untrained, and cocky when I drew them. But these drawings and characters were impregnated with inspiration and energy.  

That humid night in June, 2003, at the kitchen table, (with an inexcusably bad haircut) my love for making comics was reborn. Destiny brought 15 year old Tim into the present. There we stood face to face.

I told him he was undisciplined, messy, and untrained.

He told me I had no direction, lacked passion and inspiration, that he could outdraw me, reminded me that I used to ollie down flights of stairs, and told me to grow balls.

We shook hands and decided to work together. 

There are great ideas lurking in your old sketch books. They are calling out to you to be rediscovered.

They are beckoning you.

Right now, I want you to pause. I want you to think about the most creative times of your life. The times when making art and being creative was the most fun to you.

Go dig out your old sketchbooks and art from that time period and see what happens when you revisit that particularly creative period of life.

Now, go make something rad!