I've been reading "How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day," by Michael J. Gelb. It is a wonderfully inspirational book for all creative people, and those that want to become more creative. The book isn't limited to visual artists or writers because Leonardo da Vinci did so many different things, it embraces many different disciplines and ways of thinking.
One of the interesting bits of information I came across last night was about Leonardo's notebooks. He carried a notebook with him at all times. 7,000 pages are in existence, but it is believed there were many more. As a man who cultivated curiosita, (an insatiable curiosity about life, and unrelenting quest for continuous learning) notebooks were a constant source of inspiration and motivation for his creativity.
Some of the ways he used the notebooks, which you might try, particularly if you are suffering through a creative block, is to ask yourself a hundred questions in the notebook and then answer them, as thoroughly as possible, in your own time. Another way, is to observe everything about your day: the people you meet, how they look, act, what they say, how they interact with others, your changing environment, as you travel from one place to another, and do it all in great detail. This can help you develop characters for your novel and is also a good way to develop characters for your narrative paintings and drawings. Recording the environment helps with the environmental setting of novels and it helps with painting what is around you, or commenting on it. Use your notebooks and/or sketchbooks to release your childlike wonder about the world. Notebooks are a wonderful source for your work, and you can go back to them repeatedly, learning, building and enriching upon your original observations and thoughts.
I write out my entire novel and nonfiction books, by hand in notebooks. I take copious notes at lectures and when attending workshops, so I can recall every detail, and everything that was said later. Note-taking helps me focus and concentrate completely on such events. When I'm feeling dried up for ideas, I will go back to a notebook or sketchbook, sometimes one from many years ago. Often, I've forgotten what they contain. My notebooks and sketchbooks are treasures, from which I mine information, inspiration and ideas.
Now, we have more choices than in Leonardo's time. We can use electronic notebooks and save sketches digitally too, in files. Whichever way you like to work, give notebooks a serious thought if you're having a creative block, and if you want to avoid them in the future.