New Sketchbook Anxiety

New sketchbook anxiety is very similar to the terror of the blank canvas, which I posted about in July 2017. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another. Or, if you’re like me, you experience it frequently. But there are some ways in which sketchbook anxiety is different from a blank canvas. Those differences plus a few simple tips might hold the key to helping you ditch the anxiety once and for all…or at least help you to face the fear a little more confidently.

Sketchbooks are for practice or working out ideas, even taking notes… not masterpieces. (Photo Credit: Copyright : Panudda Nopboonchollatee)
  1. Remember…it’s JUST a sketchbook! Sketchbooks are not for masterpieces. Sketchbooks are meant for practice. You doodle in them. You try ideas out in them or to quickly sketch something you see while you’re out and about that catches your interest so that you can remember it later. Merriam-Webster defines the word sketch as “a rough drawing representing the chief features of an object or scene and often made as a preliminary study”. Key words there… “rough drawing” and “preliminary study.” Get it OUT of your head that this book should be good enough to be displayed in a museum and get it IN your head that it is a working personal classroom where you’re constantly learning and perfecting your skills.

2. Who says you have to start with a sketch? Unlike a canvas, you have the luxury of a whole bunch of pages. Why not make the first page where you put your name and the date in big block letters? Or, why not make the first page a space where you practice lines? Whether you use a pencil, pen, brush, marker, etc., use the first page to loosen up. Two things will happen when you do this. Number one…you will loosen up. And number two…it will no longer be a brand new book, so you’ll be free to practice your skills without worrying about it being a new sketchbook anymore. Genius, right?

Who says you have to start with a sketch… or even start on the first page? (Photo Credit: Myra Naito)

3. Start in the middle. As long as we’re discussing the first page, who says you have to start there? Again, it’s not like a canvas where you only have that one surface. You’ve got a whole slew of pages! If you insist on having your first page be something a little more impressive, pick a page in the middle to break in your new sketchbook, or maybe even the last page. You can always save that first page for a day when you’re feeling on top of your game. Unless you’re completely OCD about going in order from front to back, this is a great way to just get marks on the page. This way, if someone does get the opportunity to sneak a peek at your book, they’ll be so impressed with your other sketches, by the time they reach your middle of the book starter page, they won’t even notice it.

Challenges can help take your mind off of your anxiety. (Photo Credit: unknown)

4. Challenge yourself. Begin each sketchbook with a challenge in mind so you can focus on the challenge rather than the daunting task of breaking in a new sketchbook. October is always a good month for this. Jake Parker started Inktober some time back as a personal challenge to help him become more comfortable using ink. The idea caught on and now it’s a regular thing with people the world over joining in and posting their ink sketches. Or, you could challenge yourself to draw one subject matter 100 different ways. How about using it to re-imagine superheroes or Disney characters? The possibilities for challenges are endless!

5. Use it as a tool for building good habits. Like #4, giving your new sketchbook another purpose might help alleviate some of the anxiety by putting some of your focus on the purpose rather than the book itself. As an artist, you should be sketching every day to hone your skills. View your sketchbook as your sidekick and the means by which you will actively be pursuing your goals.

6. View it as a daily visual journal. Going along with giving it another purpose, you could view a sketchbook as an illustrated journal. Make a commitment to sketch at least one thing that you see each and every day. Your coffee cup and morning muffin. An old building, a landscape, a fire hydrant, a pair of old shoes, people… whatever. It doesn’t matter so long as you’re drawing it. And don’t feel limited to just sketches. Sketch your daily object and maybe jot down some thoughts about the object next to it.

Yes, the new sketchbook anxiety is a real thing. You’re not alone. But don’t let it cripple you! Hopefully, these six tips will help you overcome that anxiety so that you can keep sketching. You may decide to use just one or combine a few. Whatever and however you do it, just do it. There are sketches to be made!



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Myra Naito

Myra Naito

Freelance copywriter who is passionate about art and fitness. Check out my art blog at or follow me @mnaito_fineart .