Both Perilous, a copywriter, and Sparks, an illustrator, carry tools of their trades with them wherever they go. For Perilous, it’s a writer’s notebook. For Sparks, it’s a sketchpad. Both agents pause throughout their days and use these tools to make sense of problems, document their experiences, and get a clearer picture of their own thoughts and ideas.
Keeping a record of your adventures, whether in words or images, doesn’t just capture memories and fantasies that might otherwise be lost, like colorful butterflies camouflaged by a crowded jungle canopy. It also helps you to find meaning in the events of your life and to learn from past mistakes. It reminds you to stop when life is too big and overwhelming and to give your attention to the quirky details and strange connections that often go overlooked.
I’ve been keeping a journal of one sort or another off and on for years, but in 2016, I really committed to the process. It’s had some interesting results. For one thing, I’m able to track patterns in my thoughts and behaviors. When my energy is low, a single composition book might contain three months. When I’m energized and inspired, a single month can span two notebooks.
That insight has served as a powerful, physical reminder when I’m feeling unproductive and fearful that I may never have another good idea. A quick notebook check reassures me that sometimes my brain needs to rest, but when it comes back online – watch out, sis!
Here’s a sneak peek from Les Stone Cold Killers that illustrates the agents’ use of pen and paper to pay closer attention to the world.
From their perch, Perilous and Sparks had a postcard perfect perspective of the hippies communing around the park’s central fountain. The grubby, scrawny, shabbily-clad youth created a stark contrast with the Washington Square Arch rising heroically behind them. Scattered around their bare feet were cheap Chianti bottles, emptied and abandoned. Their heads were haloed by the smoke of a dozen joints.
“What do they really want?” Perilous asked, doodling a spiral into her notepad.
“I’m pretty sure they’ve already got it,” Sparks replied matter-of-factly. Her eyes were fixed on a girl who had just stripped down to a bikini and mounted the fountain’s edge. She posed while a boy with long, unkempt hair serenaded her. Sparks traced the scene into the sketchpad lying across her knees.
When she glanced up at her colleague, she was greeted with a familiar expression. It signified that Sparks was neither amusing nor helpful.