While unpacking my office the other day, I stumbled across a treasure: A pile of well-loved “idea notebooks” from my dad.
Truly a treasure like no other.
My dad passed away when I was only 21 years old. My children never got to meet him. But now they’re learning who he was.
Running their fingers over the pages, my kids discovered a grandfather who loved to draw. Perusing the images on his sketch pad, my sons witnessed — first-hand — not just my dad’s artistry, but his ideas on love and kindness.
And I could feel one happy grandpa smiling down on his grandsons.
All because my dad kept “idea notebooks”.
I do, too.
What is an idea notebook?
Idea notebooks are, quite simply, a specific notebook in which you scribble random thoughts, great ideas, little sketches.
I actually started using an idea notebook after reading the article “Learning from Leonardo” by Walter Isaacson from a special edition of “Time” magazine called “The Science of Creativity.” We can still reference the amazing ideas of Leonardo Da Vinci today because he kept idea notebooks. How awesome is that?
Don’t you hate it when you have an amazing idea, and it blows away like a wayward grocery store receipt? Me, too! I used to keep my ideas on whatever paper I could find. I have some weird stuff written on some weird stuff: on the back of receipts, ripped pieces of paper, paper snagged from the computer printer, and construction paper stolen from my kids’ art supplies.
I uproot these notes in my closet. Find them shoved into my wallet. They are everywhere.
Bad organization, though, leads to lost ideas. Sometimes I am sad to find an idea I never cultivated because it was written on a napkin and lost in my dressy purse for years. (Because, let’s be serious, I hardly ever use my dressy purse.)
I also have terrible short-term memory. I don’t know if it’s the lack of sleep from having three kids — or maybe my memory is bad because I have so much going on? It seems like there are always endless emails, papers, and medical appointments, all demanding my attention. My brain is a computer with too many tabs open, and it’s not doing a very good job keeping up with all the applications.
So, to help me keep it together-ish, I started an idea notebook. Ideas hit me at the most curious times. Once it was while shopping at Target. Sometimes they wake me up from my sleep at awful times like 3:34 a.m. Sometimes a conversation, song, movie, or article will kickstart a brainstorm.
Idea notebooks can be a leather-bound fancy number or a legal pad. Mine is one of those cheap ones you buy during back-to-school sales for 10 cents. It’s been a great way to catch those ideas that flutter through my mind and plant them somewhere until I’m ready to help them grow.
It was only recently that I realized I grew up watching “idea notebooks” in action. On weekend mornings, you could often find my dad at the kitchen table, happily doodling or writing down his thoughts for the day. He has been gone from Earth for almost 20 years. But he left me a priceless gift.
Idea notebooks are a legacy you leave for future generations to remember you by. After I pass away, my kids will have a very neat piece of me, all my ideas scribbled down in my notebook.
My dad’s collection even encouraged my boys to grab some color pencils and start doodling in idea notebooks of their own.
And so the tradition continues.