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Artists keep sketchbooks for all sorts of reasons: to record ideas and images, to try out different approaches to a creative task, to test colour schemes, to document a journey, to collect ephemera like a scrapbook, or even to make shopping lists. The artist's sketchbooks are a record of their life and career in a far more intimate and thorough sense than a collection of their finished works may be. Getting into the habit of carrying a sketchbook with you and adding to it every day is a great way to develop your own way of seeing and to ensure that you have a library of ideas to fall back on when you're ready to create. Don't worry about the quality of your sketches, don't wait until you've mastered drawing or you'll never start! You can keep your sketchbook to yourself, like a diary.

And if you're a writer rather than a visual artist, then there's nothing like writing with a pencil in a beautiful notebook. Author and Nobel Prize Winner John Steinbeck wrote with Blackwing pencils. He saw sharpening as an unnecessary, and unacceptable distraction. So every day, before starting work, he would sharpen 24 pencils and place them point up in the first of two identical wood boxes. Each pencil lasted just long enough to dull its point – usually four or five lines – before being placed in the second box, point down. After all 24 pencils had progressed from one box to the other, John would resharpen each pencil, and begin the process anew. According to his son, some days he would use over 100 pencils. But every day started with 24 pencils and the sound of the pencil sharpener.

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