How to start a writing habit and defeat writer’s block

Caught in writer’s block again? The good news is you can break out and get ideas for your stories. Never fear the blank page again! In fact, in this post, I’m going to teach you how to use the blank page to increase your creativity, start a writing habit, and defeat writer’s block by using something called the writer’s sketchbook. What exactly is a writer’s sketchbook? It’s one of the most valuable tools I’ve learned as a writer.


A writer’s sketchbook is like a journal—without lines

You can certainly get a lot out of lined paper, but I prefer to keep a journal on paper without lines. I’ve used an artist sketchbook for many years now. Writing on blank paper without lines frees you up to draw alongside your writing. One of my students recently challenged this. “I don’t like paper without lines,” he said. “Why don’t we just make paper with lines that also have boxes for pictures.” I suggested he just try writing on blank paper and see how it goes.

As he wrote his story, he began to doodle in the margins. Then his drawings got a little more detailed. He mixed them into his story. After he was done, I asked him about the drawings. “Would you have done that on lined paper?” I asked. He smiled. “No,” he said. The line-less paper gave him the freedom to be creative.

What makes a good writer’s sketchbook?

Like I said earlier, I always use artist sketchbooks. Here are some that I’ve used over the years:


Yes, there’s one that looks like raw meat. Don’t judge!

But that brings me to another point:

Personalize your sketchbook

Make this book something you are excited to be creative in. I often draw cartoon characters on mine, and I almost always wrap them in tape because I use them so much they get torn up. Some of my students cut out inspiring quotes and magazine articles and paste them inside. It’s up to you.

Here’s a couple of student examples:



The most important part of making your own sketchbook is actually writing your first entry.

Write your first entry

As soon as possible, start using your sketchbook. A lot of people start a sketchbook with good intentions, but they never finish. Or worse: they never write the first entry. Make it your goal to immediately jump in and write the first entry as soon as possible.

But you might be thinking . . .

What do I write about?

Great, great question!

One of the hardest things for beginning writers is getting ideas for stories.

Here are some ideas to get you started using your sketchbook:

  • Record conversations you hear
  • Describe interesting people you meet
  • Write stories about random objects in the room
  • Respond to a writing prompt
  • Play a writing game
  • Draw characters from your stories
  • Draw settings from your stories

This list will just get you started on your writing habit.

Speaking of writing habits . . .

Use your sketchbook every day

I’m okay with you bending the rules here, but one of the most important things you can do as a writer is . . . write.

Surprising, huh?

Like any other activity, you improve with practice. Sure, it helps to take classes, work with a tutor, or join a writer’s group, but consistent practice really does pay off.

I recommend setting a timer for 15 minutes every day (or maybe 4–5 times a week). I usually plan this into my day and try to do it first thing in the morning. You should find a time when you are most creative.

Go ahead. Start your sketchbook—like right now. Don’t wait. It’s easy to want to do it but never start. Now’s the time!

How’d it go?

Did you get a sketchbook? What was your first entry about? What’d you do for the cover? What questions do you have about starting a writer’s sketchbook?